According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.
People with monkeypox get a rash that may be located on or near the genitals or anus and could be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth. The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing and can initially look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.
Symptoms usually begin within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus. If flu-like symptoms are present, a rash will usually develop 1-4 days later. Monkeypox can be spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.
Other symptoms of monkeypox can include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle aches and backache
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
People may experience all or only a few symptoms and could have flu-like symptoms before the rash. Some people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms, but others only experience a rash. Images of rash photos are available on the CDC website.
Anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, who has been in close, personal contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk. Following the recommended prevention steps and getting vaccinated if the risk for exposure to monkeypox is suspected can help protect people and communities.
The CDC recommends the following steps to prevent getting monkeypox:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox.
- Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.
- Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox.
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
- Wash your hands often and keep surfaces clean.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom.
- Routinely clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and items, such as counters or light switches, using a disinfectant cleaning solution.
Vaccination is an important tool in preventing the spread of monkeypox. Because it’s not known how effective vaccines will be in the current outbreak, people who are vaccinated are encouraged to continue to protect themselves from infection by avoiding close, skin-to-skin contact, including intimate contact, with someone who has monkeypox.
In the U.S., two vaccines (JYNNEOS and ACAM2000) may be used to prevent monkeypox. JYNNEOS was developed to protect against both monkeypox and smallpox. ACAM2000 was developed to protect against smallpox. Both vaccines are expected to provide a good level of protection against monkeypox.
The Monongalia County Health Department, and other local health departments, can advise on vaccine availability and level of risk.
There is no specific treatment for monkeypox. Because the viruses that cause monkeypox and smallpox are closely related, drugs and vaccines developed to treat and protect against smallpox may be effective for monkeypox. However, the type of treatment for a person with monkeypox will depend on how sick someone gets or whether they’re likely to get severely ill. Most people with monkeypox recover fully within 2 to 4 weeks without the need for medical treatment.
- Follow known safety measures such as washing hands often, bandaging or covering the rash, masking while around others, and resting and eating healthy.
- Manage symptoms with over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
- Do not touch or scratch the rash. Use topical and oral antihistamines for itchy sensations that come with the rash. People with a rash may benefit from a tub soak with Epsom salt, vinegar or baking soda.
Contact your healthcare provider if itching and pain symptoms become severe and unmanageable at home.
Information and resources are widely available online. Individuals are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider if they believe they have been exposed, for a vaccine or for treatment.