Comparing Smallpox and Monkeypox

ATLANTA, G.A, September 1, 2022 — As a non-profit organization dedicated to halting the HIV crisis in Atlanta, Stop HIV Atlanta provides judgment-free resources. In the face of the current monkeypox outbreak, we’re focused on providing reliable and accurate information to reduce stigma and misinformation. Our monkeypox newsletters and resources target individuals with the highest risk of contracting the virus. 

Although monkeypox is a new virus to many living in Atlanta, some may be familiar with a virus similar to monkeypox: smallpox. Monkeypox and smallpox are related, causing infections to manifest in similar symptoms. However, they are also distinct enough to present unique issues. Below, you can find out more about the similarities and differences between smallpox and monkeypox. 

What are the similarities between smallpox and monkeypox?

Monkeypox and smallpox stem from the same family of variola viruses. Variola viruses are parasitic in nature, meaning that they thrive when spread from person to person. 

Both are rare diseases as of September 2022. However, monkeypox stirs global concern. International alarm over monkeypox stems from several current outbreaks in countries without historical incidents of the virus. The Biden-Harris administration declared the U.S. monkeypox outbreak a Public Health Emergency in early August. 

What are the differences between monkeypox and smallpox?

Although monkeypox is a disease with similar symptoms to smallpox, the symptoms tend to be milder in comparison. Only in rare circumstances has monkeypox resulted in death or severe complications. 

A modern smallpox death toll is nonexistent because it was eradicated. The United States has not had a natural case of smallpox since 1977, and the last smallpox outbreak occurred in 1949. However, at its peak, smallpox was a very deadly infection that took the lives of every 3 out of 10 people during typical outbreaks. 

Can We Prevent or Treat Monkeypox and Smallpox?

Effective methods to prevent contracting monkeypox can range from personal choices, harm reduction strategies, and vaccinations when eligible or available in your area

The JYNNEOS™ vaccine is an FDA-approved vaccination against both monkeypox and smallpox. Individuals vaccinated against smallpox may already be protected against monkeypox because the nature of the viruses is so similar. 

Currently, there are no specific treatments to cure monkeypox. However, under unique circumstances, medical professionals can use antiviral medication to treat monkeypox patients. This medication is not designated for monkeypox but is an effective treatment for smallpox and other conditions. If you are ineligible to receive medication and have contracted monkeypox, you should still treat your symptoms to relieve discomfort. Stop HIV Atlanta has compiled a helpful list of home remedies against monkeypox symptoms that may be helpful for you or someone you know. 

About Stop HIV Atlanta:

Stop HIV Atlanta is a non-profit organization offering educational resources to prevent the propagation of HIV in disproportionately affected communities. We provide inclusive, zero-judgment information and resources to those seeking access to HIV services in Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb, and Cobb Counties. The testing, prevention (PrEP), and treatment resources we refer to interested parties are always confidential and secure. Learn more about our mission and services by visiting or emailing us at [email protected].