Monkeypox is a disease caused by an infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox is in the same family of viruses as smallpox and does not have any relation to chickenpox. The first human case of monkeypox recorded was in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Prior to 2022, almost all monkeypox cases were in central and western African countries.
Through July 2022, there were 5,189 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Washington, DC has the highest number of cases per capita, at 30 per 100,000 residents.
The most notable symptom of monkeypox is a painful rash that looks like blisters or pimples. The rashes can appear on the face, inside the mouth, or on other parts of the body.
Some patients only experience a rash, while other patients experience other symptoms. Further symptoms can include a fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and/or exhaustion.
Monkeypox symptoms typically last two to four weeks. There are no specific treatments for monkeypox but antiviral drugs (originally developed to treat smallpox) may be recommended for patients with weakened immune systems.
How does monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox can spread person-to-person in multiple ways:
Direct contact with an infected person’s rash, scabs, or bodily fluids
Prolonged face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex with an infected person.
Touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
Monkeypox can also be spread by animals. Pregnant women can also spread the virus to their fetus.
Monkeypox can be spread from the time the rash starts until the skin has fully healed. People who do not have monkeypox symptoms cannot spread the virus.
Is there a monkeypox vaccine?
The Food and Drug Administration approved two vaccines for preventing monkeypox —JYNNEAOS and ACAM2000. There is currently a limited supply of JYNNEAOS in the US, with more expected in the coming weeks. There is a larger supply of ACAM2000 but it is not suggested for those with a weakened immune system, pre-existing skin conditions, or pregnant people.
The Department of Health and Human Services has shipped more than 310,000 doses of the JYNNEAOS vaccine to jurisdictions nationwide. The doses are prioritized based on risk assessment and conditions that prevent a patient from getting the ACAM2000 vaccine.
Who should get the monkeypox vaccine?
The CDC is recommending those who were in close contact with an identified case of monkeypox be vaccinated. It also recommends vaccinations for people with a sexual partner who was diagnosed with the virus in the last 14 days or people with multiple sexual partners in the last 14 days in an area with known cases of monkeypox.