Monkeypox

Visual examples of monkeypox rash

Overview

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), and local public health agencies are currently monitoring cases of monkeypox in the United States, including in Colorado. Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious disease that typically begins with a flu-like illness and swelling of the lymph nodes and progresses to include a widespread rash on the face and body. Monkeypox is caused by a virus that is in the same family as the virus that causes smallpox, but it typically results in less severe illness. Click through the following pages for answers to some frequently asked questions or click on the fact sheet below.

WCDPHE: Monkeypox Fact Sheet  WCDPHE: Monkeypox Fact Sheet (Spanish) 
 Press Release: Two cases of monkeypox identified in Weld County

 

General

Where does monkeypox come from?

Monkeypox is naturally occurring in central and west Africa and is endemic in parts of the continent, with more than 1,000 cases reported annually in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in recent years. Nigeria has reported ongoing spread of monkeypox since 2017, when the virus re-emerged after nearly 40 years with no reported cases. Analysis by CDC experts has found that there are at least 2 genetically distinct variants of monkeypox virus circulating in the current outbreak, both of which share common ancestors of strains present in Nigeria since 2017. This shows it’s likely that there were at least 2 separate instances in which the virus spread from animals to people in Nigeria, then began to spread person-to-person through close contact. The current outbreak includes many cases from around the world with no reported travel to these areas.

Where has monkeypox been identified in the current outbreak?

Recent cases of monkeypox have been identified on every continent except Antarctica, including in the United States and in Colorado.

State epidemiologists are coordinating across Colorado and with the CDC to monitor the progression and spread of the virus and learn more about transmission. Coloradans can track Colorado’s monkeypox cases on the CDPHE website. You also can track cases across the United States and across the globe on the CDC website.

Spread, Exposure, and Symptoms

How does monkeypox spread?

Anyone can get monkeypox. Monkeypox is spread when a person has close contact with someone who has monkeypox. Close contact includes:

  • direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
  • respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact
  • intimate contact including kissing, sex, or touching the genitals
  • touching items (clothing, bedding) that have touched the infectious rash or body fluids

It is not yet known if monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids.

Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed, typically a time period of 2-4 weeks.

Am I at risk of getting monkeypox?

The risk of monkeypox infection is low to the general public, but anyone can get monkeypox if they have close personal contact with someone who has symptoms of monkeypox. People with monkeypox in the current outbreak generally report having close, sustained physical contact with other people who have monkeypox. Recent data suggests men who have sex with men are at a higher risk, as well as people who have recently travelled to or from areas where monkeypox has been reported.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Symptoms of monkeypox often begin with fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and exhaustion. Most people get a rash 1-3 days after they first start feeling sick. The rash can look like pimples or blisters and usually appears first on the face and then spreads to the rest of the body, including the hands, feet, chest, inside of the mouth, genitals, or anus.

Sometimes people get a rash first, then other symptoms. Others only get a rash.

The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. This usually takes about 2-4 weeks.

What should I do if I may have been exposed to someone with monkeypox?

If you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for monkeypox, contact a health care provider as soon as you can, or public health may reach out to you with instructions on how to monitor for symptoms. Some people who may have been recently exposed could be eligible for a vaccine. Monkeypox vaccines can help keep you from getting sick if you get vaccinated within 4 days of exposure. If you get the vaccine between 4 and 14 days after exposure, it can help prevent severe illness.

What should I do if I think I have monkeypox?

Anyone with symptoms of monkeypox should self-isolate (if possible) and contact a health provider as soon as possible. If you have a rash, cover any lesions or sores and wear a mask before coming into close contact with anyone. Your health care provider may swab skin lesions to test for and confirm the presence of the virus.

If you test positive, stay home, avoid contact with others, and cover any skin lesions or sores. Your provider or the health department will give you instructions on how to isolate away from other people until you feel better. Most people recover from monkeypox within 2-4 weeks.

Prevention

How can I prevent myself and others from getting monkeypox?

You should take the following steps to prevent getting monkeypox:

  • Avoid contact with people who have suspected or confirmed monkeypox
    • Do not touch the rash or lesions of someone with monkeypox
    • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle, or have sex with someone who has monkeypox
    • Do not share eating utensils, cups, or toothbrushes with someone who has monkeypox
  • Avoid contact with materials that have been in contact with someone who has monkeypox
    • This includes clothing, bedding, towels, etc.
    • If you must handle contaminated materials, wear a mask and disposable gloves when doing so and wash materials with warm water and detergent
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Clean and disinfect any contaminated surfaces and dispose of contaminated waste properly
  • Avoid contact with animals that may be infected (including sick or dead animals, especially in areas where monkeypox has been confirmed) and anything they may have touched
  • Use appropriate protective equipment when caring for someone with monkeypox
    • If you need to have contact with someone who has monkeypox, encourage the infected person to cover skin lesions and wear a medical mask. You also should wear a mask and avoid skin-to-skin contact if possible. If you can’t avoid having direct contact with lesions, use disposable gloves

If you are sick with monkeypox:

  • Isolate at home
  • If you have an active rash or other symptoms, stay in a separate room or area away from people or pets you live with, if possible

If you have been in contact with someone who has confirmed monkeypox:

  • Contact your health care provider and ask about testing and vaccination
  • Monitor yourself for symptoms
  • If you develop symptoms, self-isolate immediately and contact the Health Department or your health care provider for guidance

How can I lower my risk of getting monkeypox at crowded events?

People can get monkeypox if they have close, skin-to-skin contact with someone who has monkeypox. Early indications are that events with activities in which people engage in close, sustained skin-to-skin contact have resulted in cases of monkeypox. If you plan to attend an event, consider how much close, personal, skin-to-skin contact is likely to occur there. If you feel sick or have a rash, do not attend any gathering and see a health care provider.

How can I lower my risk of getting monkeypox during sex?

Talk to your partner about any recent illness and be aware of any new or unexplained rash on your body or your partner’s body, including the genitals and anus. If you or your partner have recently been sick, currently feel sick, or have a new or an unexplained rash, do not have sex and see a health care provider.

If you or a partner has monkeypox, the best way to protect yourself and others is to avoid sex of any kind, not kiss or touch each other’s bodies while you are sick, especially any rash, and not share personal items like towels, clothing, or toothbrushes.

Testing

Who should get tested for monkeypox?

Public health experts recommend monkeypox testing for people who have a new rash, lesions, or sores with pus and could have had close contact with someone who was infected with monkeypox.

How do health care providers test for monkeypox?

The test for monkeypox involves swabbing a skin lesion. Providers send the swab into a lab for testing to detect viruses in the orthopoxvirus genus. Typically, you should receive your test result within 48 hours. You will receive your result from the same health care provider that performed your test. In the event that the provider cannot reach you, or if additional information is needed, the Health Department may also reach out.

Where can I get tested for monkeypox?

If you are experiencing symptoms of monkeypox or think you have been exposed to monkeypox, you  should first contact your primary care provider to discuss testing since many providers can now submit specimens through commercial laboratory networks and bill your insurance to cover the cost.

If you do not have a primary care provider or do not have insurance, the Weld County Health Department Clinic also has monkeypox testing available at no cost to you if you have an active rash you suspect may be monkeypox. Walk-ins are accepted but appointments are encouraged to decrease wait time. Please cover any lesions or sores and wear a well-fitting mask over your nose and mouth when you come in for testing. To make an appointment, please call (970) 304-6420.

You can also refer to CDPHE for a list of other testing providers, which is updated as more locations become available.

 

Vaccine

Is there a monkeypox vaccine?

There are 2 approved vaccines that can prevent monkeypox in people who are exposed to the virus: JYNNEOS and ACAM2000. Colorado currently has an extremely limited supply of JYNNEOS, a fully FDA-approved vaccine for people age 18 and older.

JYNNEOS contains small amounts of a live, non-replicating virus called the Vaccinia virus. This virus is in the same family as monkeypox and smallpox. The vaccine teaches your body how to fight off the Vaccinia virus. Because this virus is very similar to monkeypox, your body will also be better able to fight off monkeypox after you have been vaccinated. Clinical studies suggest the JYNNEOS vaccine is at least 85% effective in preventing monkeypox.

For maximum benefit, 2 doses of the vaccine are needed. Schedule your 2nd dose 4 weeks after your first. You will be considered fully vaccinated against monkeypox 2 weeks after receiving your 2nd dose.

How can I get a monkeypox vaccine?

Coloradans who are currently eligible for a monkeypox vaccine include men aged 18 years and older who are gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men who have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days. Anyone who believes they have been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox in the last 14 days is also eligible for the vaccine. People who already have symptoms of monkeypox (fever, rash, etc.) should not get vaccinated.

CDPHE is hosting free vaccine clinics for eligible Coloradans who meet the criteria above. Request a vaccine appointment using this form. Vaccine supply is currently extremely limited. Completing the interest form does not guarantee an appointment.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

The most common side effects are pain, redness, swelling, hardness, and itching at the injection site. Side effects can also include soreness, headache, fatigue, nausea, and chills.