Since May 13, 2022, cases of monkeypox have been reported to World Health Organization (WHO) from 12 Member States that are not endemic for monkeypox virus, across three WHO regions. The WHO described this as a “multi-country monkeypox outbreak in non-endemic countries” on May 21, 2022.
On May 20, 2022, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory regarding a confirmed case of monkeypox virus infection in Massachusetts as well as multiple clusters of monkeypox virus infections in other countries that do not usually have monkeypox cases. Anyone can get monkeypox. Currently, most cases have been among persons self-identifying as gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM), but not exclusively. Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk.
Additionally, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued an updated advisory on May 27 and also issued an advisory on May 20 to health care providers to immediately notify their local health jurisdiction (LHJ) of any potential cases.
What is monkeypox and how does it spread?
Monkeypox is a contagious disease caused by the monkeypox virus. It was discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research. The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970. It was rarely seen in the United States or many other countries until May 2022.
There are 2 types of monkeypox virus. The type that is currently in the US is less severe. The most common symptom is a rash, which may or may not be associated with flu-like symptoms Most people do not need hospital care and recover in 2-4 weeks. Vaccines and antiviral treatment are available for monkeypox.
Monkeypox is known to spread by close intimate and/or prolonged contact with someone with monkeypox including through:
- Direct skin-to-skin contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or sores during sex and other intimate contact, including kissing, massaging, and cuddling.
- Contact with respiratory secretions. This can happen during prolonged, close, face-to-face contact or intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, and sex with a person with monkeypox.
- Contact with objects and fabrics (such as unwashed clothing and bedding, sharing towels) that have been used by someone with monkeypox and haven’t been cleaned.
A person with monkeypox can spread it to others from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a new layer of skin has formed. This usually takes 2 to 4 weeks.
A pregnant person with monkeypox can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta.
Monkeypox is much less contagious than COVID-19. It is NOT spread through casual conversations or by walking by someone with monkeypox.
Scientists are still researching more about how monkeypox is spread, including:
- If the virus can be spread when someone has no symptoms,
- How often it spreads through respiratory secretions, and
- Any other types of interactions or behaviors that may put people at increased risk.
What does monkeypox look like and what are the symptoms?
Symptoms usually start 5-21 days after exposure
Most people recover in 2-4 weeks
All of the above images are from GOV.UK, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/monkeypox
Monkeypox symptoms usually start within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus.
The most common symptom is a rash that may:
- Look like bumps, pimples, blisters, or scabs and will go through several stages before healing. Generally, the rash starts as red, flat spots, and then becomes bumps. Those bumps can then become filled with fluid which turns to pus. The bumps then crust into a scab.
- Be on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina), anus (butthole), mouth, or other areas like the hands, feet, chest, and face.
- Spread over the body or it may be limited to one area. There may be just a few bumps or blisters.
- Be painful and/or itchy. Some people have severe pain, especially if the rash is inside their mouth or anus.
In addition to the rash, people may also develop flu-like symptoms. These can appear 1-4 days before the rash starts or after the rash starts. They include fever/chills, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, muscle aches, and headache.
Most people with monkeypox recover in 2-4 weeks.
How can monkeypox be prevented?
There are a number of ways to prevent the spread of monkeypox:
- Get vaccinated if you are eligible.
- Avoid very close and/or prolonged contact with someone with monkeypox symptoms, especially:
- Oral, anal, and vaginal sex, or touching the genitals or anus
- Hugging, cuddling, massaging, kissing
- Skin-to-skin contact with the rash on their body
- Sharing towels, clothing, bedding, blankets, or other objects (e.g., toothbrushes, cups, utensils, and sex toys) and materials that have not been cleaned.
- Talking very closely face to face for a long time (approximately 3 hours or more).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom.
- Wear appropriate protective equipment (mask, gloves, and gown) if you cannot avoid close contact with someone with monkeypox symptoms.
For more Monkeypox information
Please visit the Monkeypox Resources page at ph.lacounty.gov/monkeypox/resources.htm.
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Public Health has made reasonable efforts to provide accurate translation. However, no computerized translation is perfect and is not intended to replace traditional translation methods. If questions arise concerning the accuracy of the information, please refer to the English edition of the website, which is the official version.