Can Monkeypox Cause Brain Inflammation?

This year’s outbreak of the monkeypox virus has now spread to at least 96 countries, with at least 60,000 confirmed cases so far.

While previous outbreaks were spread through direct contact with infected animals, this year’s outbreak primarily spreads through human-to-human transmission. 

Infected individuals present with a characteristic rash that begins with a pimple or blister appearance, which then crusts over and scabs. While symptoms are present, individuals are considered contagious and can infect others through skin-to-skin contact.

Is Monkeypox Deadly?

On September 12, 2022, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the first confirmed death in the United States due to monkeypox. The individual was known to be severely immunocompromised, meaning their immune system could not fight off the infection.

As of September 15, the CDC reports a total of 20 deaths worldwide out of 60,799 cases.

But even though the fatality rate for monkeypox is low, the virus can cause serious complications in some people.

Monkeypox and Brain Inflammation

The CDC has also reported two confirmed cases of encephalomyelitis in patients with monkeypox virus infection.

Encephalomyelitis is a rare but serious complication that sometimes occurs after a viral or bacterial infection. It involves inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, which then causes potentially life-threatening damage to the nervous system.

Both of these patients were treated and eventually discharged to undergo physical rehabilitation therapy along with their other treatment protocols.

How You Can Help Prevent The Spread Of Monkeypox

As with other viral outbreaks, the basic rules of hygiene and sanitation apply:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people, including items of clothing or bedding that may have come into contact with an infected rash.
  • Stay home and away from others when you are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are often touched, such as doorknobs, light switches, and countertops.
  • Be aware of the signs and symptoms of infection and reports of local outbreaks.
  • Practice safe sex and make informed decisions regarding social gatherings.

If you are in a high-risk category or have recently come into contact with someone who has monkeypox, you may be eligible for a vaccine that can protect you from the monkeypox virus.

If you develop blisters, a rash, or other symptoms that may be indicative of monkeypox virus infection, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to reduce the severity of symptoms and complications.