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This information was reviewed and approved by Carrie A. Horn, MD (8/22/2022).

What is Monkeypox?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. It has been more prevalent in recent months, causing concern among health care professionals around the world.

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. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.

How does Monkeypox Spread?

Recent cases of monkeypox in the United States have been caused through person-to-person contact with an infected person. Brief interactions without physical contact are unlikely to result in getting the virus.
Typically, monkeypox spreads through close contact such as:

  • Intimate relations, hugging, massage and kissing
  • Direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox
  • Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox
  • Contact with respiratory droplets
  • Prolonged face-to-face contact

A pregnant person can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta.

A person with monkeypox can spread the virus to others from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.

Monkeypox Symptoms

People with monkeypox get a rash that develops near the area of contact from the infected person. It can develop on or near genitals or anus (butthole). The rash also can develop on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face or mouth.

The rash can initially look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.

Other symptoms of monkeypox can include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Exhaustion
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Headache
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g., sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)

You may experience all or only a few symptoms. The rash will go through several stages, including scabbing, before healing.

Monkeypox Treatments

There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox infections. However, 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, including people with weakened immune systems.

If you have symptoms of monkeypox, you should talk to your health care provider.

Monkeypox Vaccine

Some people who have been recently exposed to monkeypox should get a vaccine called Jynneos. The FDA has fully approved this vaccine.

Getting vaccinated lowers your chance of getting monkeypox if you may have been exposed. The sooner an exposed person gets the vaccine, the better. The vaccine can also reduce the severity of your symptoms if you do get sick later on. People who already have symptoms of monkeypox (fever, rash, etc.) should not get vaccinated.

Colorado currently has an extremely limited supply of the vaccine from the federal government. Vaccination is not recommended for the general public. Information on monkeypox vaccine clinics can be found on the Colorado Department of Health website.