Monkeypox: What You Need To Know

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Monkeypox is a disease caused by a virus. It is in the same family of viruses as smallpox. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox. The first human case of monkeypox in a person was in 1970 and there have been cases in some central and western African countries, cases linked to people who traveled to these countries, and cases linked to imported animals. Recently, cases of monkeypox started showing up around the world in May of 2022. This has led some cities, states, and the country to declare monkeypox a Public Health Emergency which allows for more resources to support responding to this outbreak. There’s a lot to learn about monkeypox, see below for a quick breakdown of what you need to know now.

How do you get monkeypox?

Monkeypox is spread through close contact such as sexual contact, hugging, massage, kissing, long face-to- face conversations, or touching things that were used by someone with monkeypox. Monkeypox can be spread through skin-to-skin contact with the rash or scabs associated with monkeypox, or contact with body fluids of someone who has monkeypox. Someone can also get monkeypox from touching objects like clothing, sheets, towels, or surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox. Monkeypox can also spread through close contact with respiratory secretions of someone who has it or through contact with an animal who has the virus.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

People with monkeypox get a rash or lesions that are usually on or near the genitals but can be on other parts of the body. The rash starts out looking like pimples or blisters but are usually painful or itchy. Along with the rash, people who have monkeypox might have fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, feel tired, muscle aches, headache, and may experience flu-like symptoms such as a sore throat, congestion, and cough. Symptoms start within three weeks of exposure to the virus. The flu-like symptoms may come before the rash. The rash will go through phases that usually last 2-4 weeks.

How do I prevent monkeypox?

There are things you can do to prevent monkeypox. Avoid any close or skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a rash that looks like monkeypox. Do not touch or share eating utensils, bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox. It is also important to wash your hands often to help prevent against monkeypox. Since monkeypox can be spread through sexual contact or close skin-to-skin contact, if you choose to have sex or close contact with someone, have a conversation with your partner about if they have any possible symptoms of monkeypox like a rash. Condoms can help prevent against monkeypox but since it is spread through skin-to-skin contact, they are not 100% effective at preventing monkeypox. You can find free condoms here! Since monkeypox can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, wearing clothing at festivals, parties, or other places where you might be dancing with or close to other people’s bodies can help prevent monkeypox.

Is there a vaccine for monkeypox?

There are two vaccines to protect against monkeypox, JYNNEOS and ACAM2000 however JYNNEOS is the preferred vaccine. JYNNEOS is two doses and it takes two weeks after the second dose for someone to have the maximum immunity against monkeypox. Currently only certain people are able to get a monkeypox vaccine- people who have been in contact with someone who has monkeypox and people who are more likely to get monkeypox. If you are interested in a monkeypox vaccine, check with your local county health department.

Is there treatment for monkeypox?

The short answer is no. There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox. However, the drug tecovirimat or TPOXX may be used for people who are likely to get severely ill. Also, there are medications available to help reduce the symptoms of monkeypox.

What is the worst that can happen?

The rash from monkeypox can be very painful and uncomfortable. In very rare cases, monkeypox can lead to death.

Monkeypox has been receiving a lot of news attention lately but remember it is still rare and there are things you can do to protect yourself. If you have more questions about monkeypox, talk to you doctor or find a clinic near you.  You can also learn more about other infections that can be transmitted via close contact or sexual contact and how to protect yourself.