Monkeypox

Overview

Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder. Monkeypox is rarely fatal.

Monkeypox virus was first found in laboratory monkeys in 1958. The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970. Prior to the 2022 U.S. outbreak, nearly all monkeypox cases in people outside of Africa were linked to international travel to countries where the disease commonly occurs, or through imported animals.

  • Monkeypox can be acquired by all people, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Monkeypox causes a rash
  • Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. This can take several weeks.

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Symptoms

Symptoms of monkeypox can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus
    • The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. The illness typically lasts 2–4 weeks.

Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.

Symptoms usually appear 3–17 days after exposure.

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Spread

Monkeypox can spread through:

  • Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
  • Direct contact with respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
  • Touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
  • Being scratched or bitten by an infected animal or by eating meat or using products from an infected animal
  • The placenta to a fetus

A person who is sick with monkeypox should isolate at home. If they have an active rash or other symptoms, they should be in a separate room or area from other family members and pets when possible.

People who do not have monkeypox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others.

Monkeypox can spread 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.

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Prevention

To prevent monkeypox:

  • Avoid close, skin to skin contact with the monkeypox rash
    • Do not touch the rash or scabs of person with monkeypox
    • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox
    • Do not share eating utensils or cups
  • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a sick person
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after contact with sick people
  • In Central and West Africa, avoid contact with animals that can spread monkeypox virus, usually rodents and primates. Also, avoid sick or dead animals, as well as bedding or other materials they have touched.

A person who is sick with monkeypox should isolate at home. If they have an active rash or other symptoms, they should be in a separate room or area from other family members and pets when possible.

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Testing

A healthcare worker will take 2–4 swabs of lesions on different areas of the body and send the samples to a laboratory.

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Treatment

Most people with monkeypox get better on their own without treatment.

There are no treatments approved specifically for monkeypox. However, antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to treat and prevent monkeypox in people with severe disease or who may be at high risk of severe disease.

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Vaccine

JYNNEOS has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the prevention of monkeypox. Getting vaccinated shortly after an exposure reduces the risk of developing monkeypox and can reduce symptoms for those who do get it.

The vaccine is not an effective treatment for those who already have monkeypox. If you have any symptoms of illness, including symptoms that may indicate you have monkeypox, please contact a healthcare provider.

The monkeypox vaccine is free and requires two doses, four weeks apart. A person is not fully protected from monkeypox until two weeks after the second dose of the vaccine.

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More Information

For more information on monkeypox, visit:

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Healthcare Providers

Visit Arlington County Public Health Division's Monkeypox for Healthcare Providers.

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