Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious disease caused by the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox does not spread easily between people. Human-to-human transmission occurs through close contact with infectious material from skin lesions of an infected person, through respiratory droplets in prolonged face-to-face contact, and through fomites.

Monkeypox Symptoms

Early signs of infection may include the following, followed by an unexplained rash.

  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

The rash usually develops 1 to 3 days after the fever, but some people may experience the rash or sores first — followed by other symptoms. Others may only develop the rash.

The rash may cover the entire body or only affect certain areas of the body, such as the genital and anal area. The lesions are round, firm and can be filled with fluid or have a sunken center. Lesions in the genital groin and anal regions might be confused with rashes associated with more common diseases such as herpes or syphilis.

How Monkeypox Spreads

Monkeypox does not spread via casual contact, such as a waiter at your restaurant or the cashier at the grocery store. Transmission occurs through direct or prolonged contact, such as:

  • Direct contact with the rash, its scabs or bodily fluids
  • Contact with respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face interaction or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
  • Contact with the clothes, bed linens or towels that came in contact with the rash or bodily fluids

Risk Factors for Monkeypox

You are at risk if you have had close, intimate contact with someone with a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of monkeypox. This includes contact with anything that was exposed to the fluid present in the lesions — bedding, towels or clothing. It also includes contact with any bodily fluids of an infected person, such as saliva (spit).

Monkeypox Testing and Treatment

If you develop monkeypox symptoms and any of the risk factors apply, contact your primary care provider to determine if you should be tested. If you don't have a primary care provider, you can schedule a virtual visit via the Froedtert & MCW app.

Most patients with monkeypox will not require a specific antiviral medication for their illness, but will likely need medications for fever, body aches and pain management. For patients with severe disease and those at high risk of severe disease — such as immunocompromised patients — treatment with the antiviral medication, Tecovirimat (commonly known as TPOXX), may be considered.

Monkeypox Prevention

The best way to stop the spread of monkeypox is to be aware of the signs, symptoms and risk factors. If your partner has monkeypox, avoid intimate contact until all sores heal, the scabs fall off and a fresh layer of skin forms.

If you are diagnosed with monkeypox, you are infectious until all of the lesions have scabbed over and the scabs have fallen off leaving only new normal skin beneath. That process can take up to 4 weeks. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends isolation for the duration of the infectious period — staying away from people and pets when possible.

Monkeypox Vaccination

Eligibility for monkeypox vaccination may change as the outbreak evolves and based on vaccine supply. Currently, the Froedtert & MCW health network only has enough vaccine to vaccinate patients in our health network. For other individuals, many municipalities and health departments are offering vaccination programs. You will need to talk with your primary care provider regarding your eligibility based on the current criteria.

  • Known contacts who are identified by public health via case investigation, contact tracing, and/or risk exposure assessments
  • People with known skin-to-skin contact with a person diagnosed with monkeypox
  • People who meet all of the following conditions:
    • Do not have any symptoms resembling monkeypox
    • Identify as a man (including cisgender, transgender, nonbinary, and any other men) who has sex with men OR a transgender or nonbinary woman who has sex with men
    • Have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days

If you meet those any of these criteria, contact your primary care provider to be screened for eligibility. If you are a patient of the Froedtert & MCW health network, you will receive a referral to one of the vaccination sites in our system.

The Jynneos vaccine is a two-dose series given at 0 and 28 days. You are not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after the second shot and vaccine effectiveness can vary based on your immune system. You should still avoid touching any rash or sharing towels or clothing with someone who has a rash. The disease can also spread through saliva, so avoid kissing and cuddling.

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