Monkeypox

Monkeypox is rapidly evolving and new information will be provided as it emerges. The Department of Health is monitoring transmission in the U.S. and Maryland to identify cases. While it’s good to stay alert about emerging public health outbreaks, the current risk of the general public getting monkeypox is very low.

 

What is monkeypox?

A rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox is a public health concern because the illness is similar to smallpox and can be spread from infected humans, animals and materials contaminated with the virus. Monkeypox is less transmissible and usually less severe than smallpox.

Monkeypox is not a new virus. It was first identified in 1958. Historically, cases typically occur in Western Africa. When cases have been identified outside this region, including in the U.S., they  have been related to international travel or the importation of animals. Recently, there has been a significant increase in reported cases worldwide, many of which are due to community transmission.

 

How does monkeypox spread?

It spreads through close prolonged contact with an infected person. This may include coming into contact with skin lesions or body fluids, sharing clothes or other materials, such as bed linens or towels that have been used by an infected person, or inhaling respiratory droplets during prolonged face-to-face contact.

While monkeypox can infect anyone, many of the recent cases in 2022 have occurred among persons self-identifying as men who have sex with men (MSM), individuals who have anonymous sex, and sex workers.

Monkeypox can be spread through:

  • Direct skin-to-skin contact with rash lesions
  • Sexual/intimate contact, including kissing
  • Living in a house and sharing a bed with someone
  • Sharing towels or unwashed clothing
  • Respiratory secretions through prolonged face-to-face interactions (mainly happens when living with or caring for someone who has monkeypox)

Monkeypox is NOT spread through:

  • Casual conversations
  • Walking by someone with monkeypox, like in a grocery store
  • Touching items like doorknobs

 

Symptoms

Monkeypox may start with symptoms like the flu, such as a fever, low energy, swollen lymph nodes and general body aches. Within 5 to 12 days after the appearance of fever, the person can develop a rash or sores. Sores will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing. They can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful and itchy.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Sores/Rash

Please call your medical provider if you think you may have been exposed to monkeypox and are showing signs and symptoms.

 

Treatment

In most cases, monkeypox will resolve on its own. There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections. However, monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, which means antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections. Antivirals, such as tecovirimat (TPOXX), may be recommended for people who are more likely to get severely ill, like patients with weakened immune systems.

 

Prevention

A number of ways to prevent spreading monkeypox:

  • Talk to sexual partners about any recent illness and be aware of new or unexplained sores or rashes on you or your partner’s body.
  • Limit the number of sexual partners.
  • Avoid close contact, including sex of any kind (oral, anal, vaginal) and kissing or touching each others bodies, with people with symptoms like sores or rashes.
  • Practice safe sex by using condoms or other barrier methods the right way and using a new condom or other barrier method every time you have sex. Order a Safe Sex Kit. 
  • Practice good hand hygiene.
  • Isolate infected persons until symptoms, including rash, have gone away completely
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), like a mask, gown and gloves, when caring for others with symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with infected materials, such as towels, clothing, sheets, fetish gear, sex toys and toothbrushes.
  • Avoid contact with infected animals.

 

Vaccines 

On June 28, 2022, the Federal Monkeypox Vaccination Plan was released outlining the nationwide monkeypox vaccination strategy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the JYNNEOS vaccine for preexposure prophylaxis for individuals 18 years of age and older who have been identified as being high-risk. High risk individuals include: 

  • Known contacts who are identified by public health via case investigation, contact tracing and risk exposure assessments.
  • Presumed contacts who may meet the following criteria:
    • Know that a sexual partner in the past 14 days was diagnosed with monkeypox.
    • Had multiple sexual partners in the past 14 days in a jurisdiction with known monkeypox.

The CDC does not recommend widespread vaccination against monkeypox at this time. The Anne Arundel County Department of Health will work closely with the Maryland Department of Health to determine eligibility for vaccine and for vaccine rollout as needed.

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