What You Need to Know About Monkeypox
The World Health Organization has declared the monkeypox outbreak a global public health emergency.
What is monkeypox and why are we hearing about it now?
As of August 12, more than 30,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported worldwide this year, and cases are continuing to rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 11,000 cases have been identified in the United States. The federal government has declared monkeypox a national public health emergency. In our region, cases in Maryland and D.C. have increased in recent weeks.
According to the CDC, monkeypox spreads through close contact, including skin-to-skin and respiratory secretions through face-to-face interaction. The virus can also spread by touching objects, like clothing or bed sheets, that have been contaminated by monkeypox or from a pregnant person to their fetus.
The monkeypox virus is very similar to smallpox, a virus that was eradicated through global vaccination in 1980. Because of their similarities, vaccines and treatments developed for smallpox are now being mobilized to help control the spread of this disease. If you have symptoms of monkeypox, have been exposed to monkeypox or are at high risk for being infected with monkeypox, contact your healthcare provider to find out what testing, treatment and/or vaccination may be best for you.
A monkeypox infection usually begins with flu-like symptoms (fever, headaches, muscle aches, low energy) and swollen lymph nodes. A rash that looks like pimples and pus-filled blisters can develop all over the body, including the face, genitals and inside the mouth. Some people develop a subtler rash with as little as a single lesion, and others may see a rash before any other symptoms. Infections usually last 2-3 weeks and are rarely fatal. However, children under 8 years old, immunocompromised, pregnant or breastfeeding people are at greater risk for death. If you notice a new rash or other monkeypox symptoms, avoid any close contact with other people until you have seen your healthcare provider.
You can take the following measures to protect yourself against monkeypox:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
- Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you touch a contaminated item.
- Stay up to date on the spread of monkeypox in your area. Look out for messages from your state or local health department.
CareFirst is carefully monitoring the situation and will continue to provide updates as the outbreak evolves. Please take advantage of the resources below to learn more about monkeypox.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- District of Columbia Department of Health
- Maryland Department of Health
- Virginia Department of Health
- West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
Monkeypox is an infectious viral disease that can occur in humans and some other animals. Symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash that forms blisters and then crusts over. The time from exposure to onset of symptoms ranges from five to 21 days. The duration of symptoms is typically two to four weeks. There may be mild symptoms, and it may occur without any symptoms being known. The classic presentation of fever and muscle pain, followed by swollen glands, with lesions all at the same stage, has not been found to be common to all outbreaks.
No. Monkeypox is not a pandemic. Pandemic is a term used to describe a situation when the spread of disease is global in nature. Endemic is used to describe a disease that is present permanently in a specific region or group of people. Currently, monkeypox is only endemic in areas of Central and West Africa.
Declaring monkeypox a national public health emergency opens more funding and resources needed to respond to the outbreak, including vaccines, testing and treatments. It also facilitates more coordination between federal, state and local officials.
The CDC recommends the following steps to protect yourself and others from monkeypox.
The following actions can increase your risk of becoming infected with monkeypox:
- Touching the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox
- Kissing, hugging, cuddling or having sex with someone with monkeypox
- Sharing eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox
- Handling or touching bedding, towels or clothing of a person with monkeypox
- Not washing your hands frequently with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom
The CDC recommends the following steps to protect yourself and others from monkeypox. There are multiple vaccines available, but widespread vaccination is not recommended at this time. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine if vaccination is right for you.
There are multiple vaccines available, but currently, widespread vaccination is not recommended. The CDC is only recommending vaccination for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and select high-risk populations.
Individuals who are considered higher risk and are encouraged to get vaccinated against monkeypox include:
- Anyone who has been exposed to the virus through a family member or other close contact
- Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men and have had multiple or anonymous sexual partners
- Transgender women and nonbinary persons assigned male at birth who have sex with men and have had multiple or anonymous sexual partners
- Sex workers
- Staff at establishments where sexual activity occurs
- People who attend sex-on-premises venues
A monkeypox infection usually begins with flu-like symptoms (fever, headaches, muscle aches, low energy) and swollen lymph nodes. A rash that looks like pimples and pus-filled blisters can develop all over the body, including the face, genitals and inside the mouth. Some people develop a subtler rash with as little as a single lesion, and others may see a rash before any other symptoms.
There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections. Pain relievers and fever reducers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen may help you feel better and soaking in a warm colloidal oatmeal bath can relieve the dry, itchy feeling that comes with skin rashes.
Monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, which means that 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.
If you have symptoms of monkeypox, you should talk to your healthcare provider, even if you don’t think you had contact with someone who has monkeypox.
There are two types of monkeypox virus: Clade I and Clade II (formerly known as Congo Basin and West African, respectively). Infections in the current outbreak are from the Clade II type. Infections with the type of monkeypox virus identified in this outbreak—the Clade II type—are rarely fatal. Over 99% of people who get this form of the disease survive. However, people with weakened immune systems, children under 8 years of age, people with a history of eczema, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be more likely to get seriously ill or die.
The Clade I type of monkeypox virus has a fatality rate around 10%.
If you suspect that you may have contracted monkeypox, you should isolate yourself from physical contact with others and seek medical advice immediately. Initial symptoms of monkeypox include a skin rash or lesion, fever, headache, muscle ache and swelling of the lymph nodes.
No. Monkeypox is not an STI. While sexual encounters are currently the predominant mode of transmission among reported cases, monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection. STIs are spread primarily through sexual contact, while monkeypox can spread through prolonged, close skin-to-skin or face-to-face contact regardless of whether it is sexual in nature.
CareFirst will cover visits to your provider and medical care for monkeypox.
No. Anyone can contract monkeypox.