What is it?
Monkeypox is a viral infection that causes symptoms similar to those seen in smallpox patients.1 The virus belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus, which also includes the virus that causes smallpox and the Poxviridae family.2 Human monkeypox was first identified in 1970, and primarily occurs in central and west Africa, where it is considered endemic. The first monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa occurred in 2003, and led to over 70 cases of the virus in the U.S.3
Have there been any cases reported in the U.S. and/or Canada?
In May 2022, monkeypox were identified in several countries where monkeypox is not commonly found, including over 500 confirmed cases in the U.S. and over 350 in Canada as of July 2022. Research is ongoing to understand the cause of this recent outbreak.
What are the symptoms?
Monkey pox is rarely fatal, and most who contract monkeypox recover in two-four weeks. The most common symptoms of monkeypox include5:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- 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.
Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience only a rash. The rash goes through different stages before healing completely.
How can you get it?
Monkeypox can be spread by person-to-person transmission through6:
- Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs or body fluids
- Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling or sex
- Touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
- Pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta
Based on current evidence, it is extremely uncommon for transmission of the virus to occur from someone who is infected but has no symptoms (asymptomatic spread).7 Monkeypox can also be spread through animal-to-human transmission, either by getting scratched or bitten by an infected animal or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal.5
How do you prevent it?
There are several steps you can take to prevent getting monkeypox from another person. If someone is infected with monkeypox8:
- Avoid close skin to skin contact with rash
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of infected individual
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with infected individual
- Do not share eating utensils or cups
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels or clothing
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after contact with infected individual
Additional steps can be taken to prevent animal-to-human transmission of the virus. Avoid contact with animals that can spread monkeypox virus, such as rodents and primates. Also avoid sick or dead animals, as well as bedding or other materials they have touched.9
While on duty, you can help prevent the spread of monkeypox by:
- Decontaminating by using disinfectants such as bleach and ammonia to clean potentially contaminated surfaces.10
- Using Droplet, Contact and Universal Precautions11:
- Assume patients with respiratory symptoms are contagious and provide masks for symptomatic patients.
- Limit the number of crew members having direct patient contact.
- Cover skin lesions to prevent aerosolization or contact.
- Hand hygiene (wash with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub)
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) (gloves, gowns, goggles and respiratory protection).
- Proper handling and disposal of contaminated instruments/devices and clothing.
What should you do if you are exposed to the disease or get the disease?
If you have a rash that looks like monkeypox, talk to your healthcare provider, even if you don’t believe you have had contact with someone who has monkeypox. Certain people may be at higher risk, including those who12:
- Had contact with someone who had a rash that looks like monkeypox, if your community is experiencing an outbreak or someone who was diagnosed with confirmed or probable monkeypox
- Traveled outside the US to a country with confirmed cases of monkeypox or where monkeypox activity has been ongoing
- Had contact with a dead or live wild animal or exotic pet that exists only in Africa or used a product derived from such animals
Vaccines are an effective tool for protecting people against monkeypox illness when properly administered prior to an exposure. They may also provide protection and lead to a less severe infection if administered shortly after exposure.12
Past data from Africa suggests that the smallpox vaccine is at least 85% effective in preventing monkeypox, though protection may not necessarily be lifelong.13 As of July 2022, two vaccines are available for preventing Monkeypox, JYNNEOS and ACAM2000.14 The availability of these vaccines may vary, and research is currently ongoing to study the efficacy of these vaccines.
People are considered fully vaccinated about two weeks after their second shot of JYNNEOS and four weeks after receiving ACAM2000; however, ACAM2000 should not be administered in people who have certain health conditions, including a weakened immune system, skin conditions or pregnancy.13
Last Updated: 07/2022
1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox: About Monkeypox. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/about.html
2World Health Organization. Fact sheets: Monkeypox. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/monkeypox
3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox: Past U.S. Cases and Outbreaks. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/outbreak/us-outbreaks.html
4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox: U.S. Outbreak 2022: Situation Summary. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/response/2022/world-map.html
5Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox: Signs and Symptoms. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/symptoms.html
6Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox: How it Spreads. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/transmission.html
7Government of Canada. Monkeypox: Risks. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/monkeypox/risks.html
8Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox: Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/prevention.html
9Government of Canada. Monkeypox: For health professionals. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/monkeypox/health-professionals.html#a7
10Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthcare Facility Response Activities: Prevent Spread of Disease. https://www.cdc.gov/smallpox/bioterrorism-response-planning/healthcare-facility/prevent-spread-disease.html#ppe
11Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infection Control Basics: Standard Precautions for All Patient Care. https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/basics/standard-precautions.html
12Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox: U.S. Monkeypox Outbreak 2022: Situation Summary. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/response/2022/index.html
13Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox for Healthcare Professionals: Monkeypox and Smallpox Vaccine Guidance. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/clinicians/smallpox-vaccine.html
14Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox: Considerations for Monkeypox Vaccination. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/considerations-for-monkeypox-vaccination.html