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The first reported cases of monkeypox in the US were as far back as 2003, linked to prairie dogs. 

Now, there are currently more than 22,000 confirmed cases worldwide; the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared this outbreak a global health emergency. As of July 28, 2022, more than 5,000 cases have been reported in the US, per the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC now requires registering all monkeypox suspected or confirmed cases within 24 hours.

What is Monkeypox?

Transmission can occur from direct skin–to–skin contact with lesions, rashes, scabs, or bodily fluids. It can also be transmitted by touching surfaces, clothing, or other objects an infected person uses. Contact with respiratory secretions can spread the virus, and being bitten or scratched by animals, including household pets, can also spread it. Currently, most cases in the US are among gay and bisexual males through close skin contact. However, anyone can contract and spread this illness.

Monkeypox has an incubation period ranging from 5–21 days. Once symptoms have emerged, the illness can last from 2-4 weeks. Once the first symptom occurs, you are considered contagious and will need to self-isolate.

Symptoms to look for early on are very similar to flu-like symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle ache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Rash — many people won’t realize they have monkeypox until the rash emerges 

The monkeypox rash can present as a rash or as individual sores resembling pimples or blisters and can be anywhere on the body. They can also emerge on the hands, face, chest, groin, and inside the mouth or anus. The monkeypox lesions can be flat or raised and contain clear or yellowish fluid that will eventually dry up and fall off. 

President Biden has authorized the release of hundreds of thousands of doses of the monkeypox vaccine to be given to the most vulnerable Americans. The most susceptible to this illness depends on the city or state people live in and how widespread the outbreak is there. CDC lists the criteria for a monkeypox vaccine as follows:

  • If you’ve been in contact with someone who has monkeypox, or you were identified as possibly exposed via a contact tracing.
  • If you had a sexual partner within the last two weeks who have monkeypox.
  • If you’ve had multiple sexual partners in an area with many monkeypox cases in the last two weeks.

No current data on these vaccines’ effectiveness in this recent outbreak is available. However, it is suspected from previous use to be 85% effective in preventing the illness and will aid in decreasing symptoms’ severity.  

The immune response takes 14 days after the second dose of JYNNEOS and four weeks after the ACAM2000 dose for maximal development. If you are vaccinated, you should continue to take steps to protect yourself by:

  • Avoiding close, skin–to–skin contact, including intimate contact with someone who has monkeypox.  
  • Do not handle or touch an infected person’s bedding, clothing, or towels.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after contact with people with monkeypox.
  • Avoid contact with animals that could have the virus (such as animals that are sick or that have been found dead). 

Exposed to Monkeypox?

If you have been exposed to monkeypox, the vaccine can be given and is recommended by CDC to be delivered within four days of exposure to be the most effective. If you are given the vaccine between 4-14 days after exposure, the vaccination may reduce the symptoms but not prevent the disease.  When receiving the vaccine after exposure, along with self-isolation, properly caring for your pets and proper home disinfection will decrease the spread of the monkeypox virus.

Isolation needs to continue throughout the illness. Isolate if you have a fever or any respiratory symptoms such as sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough while the rash persists until all scabs fall off and a new layer of skin is over each site.  Isolate until all monkeypox illness signs and symptoms have fully resolved in 2-4 weeks. 

Health care providers should follow the CDC’s Infection Prevention and Control of Monkeypox in Healthcare Settings Website.

Individuals wanting to learn more about monkeypox in your area need to contact your local city or state health department.