In July of 2022 the WHO (World Health Organization) issued a public health emergency for the non-variola orthopoxvirus virus known as Monkeypox a.k.a. Mpox. Currently, there have been roughly 30,000 confirmed cases of mpox within the United States, but luckily the virus has slowed down dramatically thanks to quick efforts by the CDC and FDA. After COVID-19 we learned that getting accurate testing is key to helping reduce the transmission of viruses, and the same is true with mpox where getting tested as quickly as possible will help in preventing unnecessary spread to other people. However, it’s not exactly clear how someone can get a test and which one is best for detecting monkeypox.
That’s where this article can help. You’re going to learn everything about monkeypox testing, when you should get it, and what to expect.
When Should You Get A Mpox Test?
You should immediately contact your physician and seek testing for either scenario:
- You’ve been exposed (especially close contact) to someone diagnosed with mpox.
- You’ve developed symptoms (especially lesions).
Currently, the FDA is advising physicians to use swab samples taken directly from a lesion (which is a rash or growth) for the most accurate testing results. While it may seem unnecessary to get a test after getting clear symptoms of mpox, verification is critical for contact tracing and managing pain.
There are early warning signs indicating a monkeypox infection which include the following symptoms:
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
After a couple days of infection you will begin to notice lesions which can appear anywhere on the body including your groin, face, hands, chest, etc. These often appear like pimples with pus and can vary in the amount on the body.
It’s important to know that the virus can remain dormant for anywhere up to 2 weeks or more without producing symptoms.
In terms of transmission, mpox is spread through direct contact by either respiratory droplets or contact with bodily fluid. Fortunately, mpox is not known to stay in the air or remain on surfaces for very long.
What Are The Different Types Of Monkeypox Tests?
There is really only one way to test for mpox and that’s with a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test – which is incidentally the same test for detecting COVID-19.
A PCR test works by extracting material from the patients lesions with the use of a swab which is then sent to the lab for amplification. These samples can include fluid from the lesions or dried scabs from a rash for testing. If the mpox virus is present within the lab sample, this will be detected during the amplification.
Many health providers will ask to run a blood test in order to check for other diseases and potentially get a double confirmation from the lesion test, however it’s not recommended to get a blood test for monkeypox because it doesn’t last within the blood for a long period of time during the process of infection.
You should also be aware that tests which rely on antibodies (for example antigen testing) have no value when testing for mpox and determining a diagnosis. The reason why is how similar this virus is to other smallpox variants and if you’ve received the smallpox vaccine you could receive a false positive. For this reason, there’s no reliable at-home test for determining monkeypox like there were for COVID..
What Should You Expect From A Monkeypox Test?
In the beginning of mpox, patients would need to wait anywhere from 1-3 weeks for results on their tests. However, the anticipated results are much faster with results taking anywhere from 1-3 days now.
There are typically 4 outcomes from your test. However, in the time between your results during the analysis, you should assume you have mpox and isolate yourself to help prevent any additional spreading in the event of a positive test.
These outcomes include:
- Detected (Positive) – the PCR test detected a non-variola orthopoxvirus which will be mpox due to it being the only virus of this kind currently known to be transmitted to humans.
- Not Detected (Negative) – This means there was no virus detected within the sample.
- Equivocal – this occurs when a virus is detected but at the limit of amplification. Another sample will be needed.
- Inconclusive – this can result from a bad sample. Another sample will be needed.
If your test results are positive, it’s important to listen to your physician for treatment options and to take the steps necessary to protect yourself and heal from your infection. While treatments for mpox are limited at this time, the good news is that most people with mpox recover fully within 2 to 4 weeks without the need for medical treatment.Nevertheless, it is always critical to follow your healthcare provider’s guidance.
If your test is negative, this means you’re most likely do not have mpox as the test did not detect any virus.
In a world rocked by COVID-19, mpox couldn’t have come at a worse time. However, the lessons we learned from the pandemic helped to dramatically slow the spread of monkeypox and produce quicker testing for those individuals affected by this orthopoxvirus. If you’re someone who is concerned about having monkeypox and you’re looking to get tested please contact Lux Diagnostics to speak with a physician who can help.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can A Blood Test Detect Monkeypox?
Not on its own. The FDA only recommends testing by swabbing lesions for diagnosing mpox. However, physicians will also take a blood sample to rule out other types of infections which is uncommon.
How Does A Sample Get Taken?
The technician will collect samples from lesions on your body by vigorously swabbing the lesson to ensure they get enough material for testing. This can be uncomfortable but it’s a necessary step to ensure they get enough specimens to get an accurate test.
How Can I Avoid Monkeypox?
Avoid getting close to individuals who look like they might have mpox (which includes the rash or lesions). Avoid any contact with these individuals. Wash your hands if you do get in contact with anyone.
How Does It Feel To Have Monkeypox?
In general it will feel like the flu where you will get aches, a fever, and an intense headache. You might also get swollen lymph nodes. The tell-tale sign of monkeypox is a blister-like rash which is often compared to chickenpox will appear on your body. These lesions will be filled with pus or a clear liquid and have been known to be slightly itchy. Just as with chicken pox, it is important not to scratch or itch the lesions so as to not make the infection worse.