August 2022 Dr. Eriko Masuda, infectious disease specialist, answers your top questions about Monkeypox.
What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal.
What are the symptoms?
Many individuals infected with monkeypox virus have a mild, self-limiting disease lasting 2-4 weeks that resolves without treatment.
• Fever and chills
• Muscle aches and backache
• Swollen lymph nodes
• Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
• Rectal symptoms (e.g., purulent or bloody stools, rectal pain, or rectal bleeding)
• 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.
Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.
How does it spread?
• Through direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids.
• By respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex.
Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. Anyone in close personal contact with a person with monkeypox can get it and should take steps to protect themselves. Many cases of monkeypox have occurred after crowded events with activities in which people engage in close, sustained skin-to-skin contact. If you plan to attend a crowded event, consider how much close, personal, skin-to-skin contact is likely to occur there.
Is there a treatment?
There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections. However, because of genetic similarities in the viruses, antiviral drugs used to treat smallpox may be used to treat monkeypox infections.
How can I protect myself from Monkeypox?
• Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
• Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with suspected or confirmed monkeypox.
• Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with suspected or confirmed monkeypox.
• Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with suspected or confirmed monkeypox has used.
• Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with suspected or confirmed monkeypox.
• Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with suspected or confirmed monkeypox.
• 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.
Is there a vaccine?
Because monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, vaccines developed to protect against smallpox viruses may be used to prevent monkeypox infections. The U.S. government has two stockpiled vaccines—JYNNEOS and ACAM2000—that can prevent monkeypox in people who are exposed to the virus.
Due to the limited supply of monkeypox vaccine, public health is only offering vaccines to high risk individuals. Check the LA County Department of Public Health website for the most recent eligibility criteria (http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/monkeypox/)
What should I do if I think I have Monkeypox?
• Contact your healthcare provider
• Call 2-1-1 (if you don't have a provider or health insurance)
• Visit a Public Health Sexual Health Clinic (http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/monkeypox/)