Understanding monkeypox: what you need to know

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a virus in the same group of viruses as smallpox (variola) and the virus used to develop the smallpox vaccine (vaccinia). Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox. Learn more about monkeypox from the CDC.

Who is at risk for monkeypox?

Anyone can get infected with monkeypox. Unfortunately, sexual and gender minorities are currently being disproportionately affected.

How serious is monkeypox disease?

Fortunately, monkeypox is rarely fatal. According to CDC, Over 99 percent of people infected with the type of monkeypox virus identified in this outbreak — the West African type — are likely to survive. However, some can develop serious illnesses, particularly those at high risk, including those with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, the elderly, or those under the age of 8. Most people with monkeypox have mild illness, but the rash can be extremely painful for some, depending on where it is on the body.

How do I know if I have monkeypox… what are the symptoms?

Most people with monkeypox get a rash. Other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes/glands, and fatigue. Sometimes people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash. Learn more about signs and symptoms from the CDC.

What does monkeypox look like?

The CDC website has pictures of what the monkeypox rash might look like; You can view the images here.

How do you get monkey pox?

You must have close, personal, and often skin-to-skin contact to catch monkeypox from someone else. It can spread through direct contact with a monkeypox rash, scabs, or bodily fluids of a person with monkeypox, or with an infected person’s clothing or bedding. Less commonly, the virus can spread via respiratory droplets after close and prolonged face-to-face contact (such as kissing).

Monkeypox can spread through sexual contact, but that’s not the only way it spreads. “Sexual contact is by no means the only way this disease can be transmitted,” says Paul Graman, MD, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “There is a possibility that the virus could be present in semen or vaginal secretions, but we don’t know at this point. At the moment, as far as we know, the infectious lesions are mainly responsible for the ongoing spread.”

According to the CDC, a person with monkeypox can transmit it to others from the onset of symptoms until the rash has completely healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness usually lasts two to four weeks. Learn more.

Is monkeypox contagious?

Yes. Anyone can get monkeypox if they are in close contact with another person’s infectious lesions or an infected person’s clothing or bedding, or if they have prolonged personal contact with an infected person. Researchers are working to find out if the virus can be spread when someone has no symptoms and how often the virus is spread through airborne infection. Monkeypox is much less contagious than COVID.

How is monkeypox diagnosed?

Monkeypox infection is confirmed with a test that detects viral DNA from a sample obtained by swabbing a lesion or lesions.

What should I do if I have monkeypox?

If you notice a new rash on your body, you should contact your GP or other healthcare provider. Monkeypox rash can look like some other diseases, so it’s important to seek advice. Call your doctor before going to their office or if you think you need to go to an emergency center or emergency room.

Is there a monkeypox vaccine?

Yes, the Jynneos vaccine is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to prevent monkeypox virus infection. When given before or after exposure, the vaccine can be an effective tool in protecting people from monkeypox disease.

For the latest updates on vaccine supplies and who should receive the vaccine, visit the CDC Considerations for Monkeypox Vaccination side or the Monroe County Department of Public Health Side? site.

Does the smallpox vaccine protect against monkeypox?

If you were vaccinated against smallpox as a child, it may provide some protection against monkeypox. However, as vaccines weaken over time, experts recommend that you get the monkeypox vaccine if you qualify.

“There is an expectation that those of us who received the smallpox vaccine as children will have some immunity left over,” Graman says. “Most smallpox vaccinations have not been given for a very long time; we shouldn’t rely on the protection from a gunshot that we got years ago.”

What are the treatment options for monkeypox?

Many people with monkeypox have mild illness and do not need treatment. Some people may need over-the-counter medications to relieve the pain caused by the rash. People whose pain is not well controlled or who have trouble staying hydrated may need to be hospitalized.

People with monkeypox who are at high risk of or have a serious illness may qualify for an antiviral drug called tecovirimate (TPOXX). If you have symptoms and have tested positive for monkeypox, you should speak to your doctor about treatment options.

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