According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox was discovered in 1958. It is a rare orthopoxvirus, the same family as the variola virus which causes smallpox, but with milder symptoms and is rarely fatal.
Most people with monkeypox will get a rash with or without other symptoms, such as:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
- A rash that may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) but could also be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth; Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.
- The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
- The rash can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.
Monkeypox symptoms usually start within three weeks of exposure to the virus.
Monkeypox can spread through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including:
- Direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox
- Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox
- Contact with respiratory secretions
NYSDOH offers additional guidance on monkeypox and sexual health.
Infected individuals can spread monkeypox to others from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.
Scientists are still researching:
- If the virus can be spread when someone has no symptoms
- How often monkeypox is spread through respiratory secretions, or when a person with monkeypox symptoms might be more likely to spread the virus through respiratory secretions
- Whether monkeypox can be spread through semen, vaginal fluids, urine, or feces
Students who have symptoms of monkeypox should contact the Health Center. Employees should talk to their healthcare provider. Anyone with symptoms should avoid direct contact with others until they can be diagnosed. Individuals with confirmed cases should avoid contact with others until all of their skin lesions have completely healed with the formation of a fresh new layer of intact skin.
Currently there are two licensed vaccines in the United States to prevent smallpox which are being used against monkeypox, although they are not readily available to the general public. At this time the CDC only recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and people who may be more likely to get monkeypox.
Vaccine supply and eligibility varies based on your location. If you meet local eligibility criteria (e.g., close contacts with someone with suspected or confirmed monkeypox, multiple partners, anonymous sexual encounters) and live in an area with identified cases of monkeypox, you can check with your local health department to see if you are eligible for the vaccine at this time. Here is a directory of local U.S. health departments.
Supportive care is the mainstay of therapy. This includes fluids, wound hygiene/care, pain management, and treatment of any secondary infections. Skin lesions should be kept clean and dry. Analgesics should be taken as needed for pain. Oral antihistamines and topical agents such as calamine lotion, over the counter hydrocortisone, and petroleum jelly can help alleviate itching. More severe infections are managed in collaboration with local health departments and may involve trials of medications held in reserve by the CDC.