Monkeypox Vs Chickenpox: What's The Difference Between 2 Infections | Explained

In a few cases that were reported recently, two suspected cases of monkeypox turned out to be chickenpox.

By Anushka Vats
Mon, 01 Aug 2022 03:17 PM IST
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Monkeypox Vs Chickenpox: What's The Difference Between 2 Infections | Explained
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The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared monkeypox a global health emergency. While both chickenpox and monkeypox share similar symptoms, it has confused everyone. At the same time, doctors have showered light upon the difference in the way the symptoms of both viral diseases are exhibited in patients.

Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although it is clinically less severe. People showing any symptoms are however advised to consult the doctors.

Skin rashes and fever, the common symptoms in both monkeypox and chickenpox have caused confusion among people although doctors have stressed that there is a difference in the way the symptoms of both viral diseases manifest in patients.

During the rainy season, people are more prone to viral infections, and chickenpox cases are largely seen during this time along with other infections that also show symptoms like rashes and nausea, said Dr Ramanjit Singh, visiting consultant, dermatology, Medanta Hospital.

"Due to this situation, some patients are getting confused and misinterpret chickenpox with monkeypox. The patient may determine whether they have monkeypox or not by understanding the sequence and the onset of symptoms," Dr Ramanjit Singh said.

He also informed that monkeypox at the beginning, usually shows symptoms like fever, malaise, headache, sometimes sore throat, cough, and lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes) and all these symptoms appear four days prior to skin lesions, rashes, and other problems which primarily start from hand and eyes and spread to the whole body.

Other experts also agree and claim that besides skin involvement, there are other symptoms too in the case of monkeypox, but it is always better to consult a doctor to dispel any doubts.

In a few cases that were reported recently, two suspected cases of monkeypox turned out to be chickenpox.

A suspect of the disease was admitted to the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital (LNJP) Hospital in Delhi last week with fever and lesions, tested negative for the infection but was diagnosed with chickenpox. Similarly, an Ethiopian citizen, who had gone to Bengaluru was tested for monkeypox after he showed symptoms but his report confirmed that he had chickenpox.

Dr Satish Koul, Director, Internal Medicine, Fortis Memorial Research Institute said, "In monkeypox, the lesions are bigger than chickenpox. In monkeypox, the lesions are seen on palms and soles. In chickenpox, lesions are self-limiting after seven to eight days but not so in monkeypox. The lesions are vesicular and itchy in chicken pox. In monkeypox, the lesions are broad vesicular and non-itchy." Dr Satish Koul also said the duration of fever is longer in monkeypox and such a patient has enlarged lymph nodes.

Elaborating on the virus that causes chickenpox, Dr S C L Gupta, medical director of Batra Hospital, said chickenpox is a Ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus that is not as severe but it too leads to rashes on the skin. "This is the season of chickenpox. Usually, during monsoon, there is this dampness, a rise in temperature, water logging, formation of moisture, and wet clothes, all these lead to the growth of the virus."

"Also, there is a religious aspect associated with the disease. People treat it like a 'goddess' and so such patients are not treated with any sort of medicines. They are kept in isolation and are given time to heal," he added.

Talking about monkeypox, Dr S C L Gupta explained that such virus requires an animal host but is self-limiting with sore throat, fever and normal virus signs.

"The main sign of this virus is the rashes on the body which have liquids inside. This leads to viral infection which weakens the body resistance. But problems arise due to its complication. In case, any bacterial infection and gets pusses and leads to blisters leading further complication into the body. "Right now, monkeypox is at its juvenile stage. We do not have a proper treatment. We are just following the method of isolation and treating the suspected patient according to their symptoms. If there is a throat infection, we use the generic medicines that we usually take. So, here it is a case of symptomatic treatment," he said.

Meanwhile, people infected with monkeypox during the ongoing global outbreak are displaying symptoms not typically associated with the viral infection, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. The findings are based on 197 confirmed monkeypox cases at an infectious disease centre in London, UK, between May and July 2022.

(With agency inputs)

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