What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare disease that causes a rash and is caused by the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is in the same family of viruses that causes smallpox. However, the symptoms of monkeypox are thought to be milder than smallpox symptoms. Symptoms can last between 2-4 weeks and most people are able to recover without needing treatment.
What are the signs and symptoms of Monkeypox?
Most people start showing symptoms within 14 days after exposure to Monkeypox. Most people have flu-like symptoms first, then the distinctive rash appears a few days later. However, some people may have the rash as their only symptom. Common symptoms include:
- Body aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Rash – similar to pimples or blisters
How does Monkeypox Spread?
Monkeypox is spread from close contact with someone who has monkeypox.
- Contact with a skin rash or bodily fluids
- Contact with contaminated clothing or linen
- Contact with droplets during prolonged face-to-face contact
Is there a treatment for Monkeypox?
There is not a specific treatment available for Monkeypox but there are a few treatment options that were originally approved for the treatment of smallpox. The antivirals that may be beneficial in severe monkeypox infection are: tecovirimat, cidofovir, and brincidifovir, however these are not commonly used. Vaccines are an option to those who have been exposed to Monkeypox or those at high risk of being exposed to Monkeypox and are discussed in more depth later on in this post. Again, most people are able to recover from Monkeypox without needing antiviral treatment. If you do contract Monkeypox, there are a few things that you can do to manage your symptoms:
- Pain relievers and fever reducers: Advil/Motrin (ibuprofen); Tylenol (acetaminophen)
- Stay hydrated
- Oatmeal baths: this can help relieve itching and dryness
- Cover rashes: covering your rash with reduce the spread to others and your environment
- Rest: stay home and take care of yourself
- Isolate from others and wear a mask to protect those around you
What vaccines are available? Where can I receive a vaccine if I think I’ve been exposed?
There are currently two vaccines available for the prevention of Monkeypox – JYNNEOS and ACAM2000. Currently, only the health department is administering the JYNNEOS and ACAM2000 vaccine. The nearest health department is the Richmond City Health Department.
ACAM2000 was originally approved for smallpox, but it is also approved for monkeypox. Here is what you should know about the ACAM2000 vaccine:
- ACAM2000 is a live vaccine that contains Vaccinia virus and is able to replicate
- ACAM2000 is one dose and is administered by pricking the skin several times with the vaccine
- ACAM2000 should NOT be used in the following people: those who have an immunocompromising condition, those taking medications to suppress the immune system, HIV, eczema, pregnancy, cardiac disease, eye disease treated with topical steroids
JYNNEOS is a newer vaccine approved for monkeypox. Here is what you should know about the JYNNEOS vaccine:
- JYNNEOS is a live vaccine like the ACAM2000 vaccine, but the Vaccinia virus is NOT able to replicate well in human cells.
- JYNNEOS is 2 doses administered under the skin separated by 4 weeks
- JYNNEOS is able to be used in people with immunocompromising conditions, unlike the ACAM2000 vaccine.
- For this reason, JYNNEOS should be saved for those who cannot receive the ACAM2000 vaccine
Public and routine vaccination is not available at this time. The Richmond City Health Department is currently vaccinating those who fall into one of the following categories:
- Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP): those exposed to a known or suspected case of Monkeypox to prevent illness. Vaccination after symptoms start is not beneficial.
- Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP): those who are at high risk and most likely to be exposed to Monkeypox – even if they haven’t come into contact with a known or suspected case of Monkeypox
Please visit the Richmond City Health Department website to get more information on getting vaccinated against Monkeypox.
Who is at the highest risk of getting Monkeypox?
According to the Virginia Health Department, the risk of getting monkeypox is low in Virginia. As of August 2, 2022, there are 112 documented cases of monkeypox in Virginia and 7 cases in the Central Region (which includes Richmond). Additionally, there have been no reported deaths in the US or Virginia during the 2022 Monkeypox outbreak. Visit the Virginia Department of Health website for the most up-to-date case count in Virginia and Central Virginia.
For the 2022 Monkeypox outbreak, those who are most at risk include the following:
- Gay, bisexual, transgender women, nonbinary persons assigned male at birth, and other men who have sex with men and have multiple or anonymous sexual partners
- Sex workers
- Staff at establishments where sexual activity occurs
- Others who are at high risk for monkeypox (ex: lab workers who do testing to diagnose monkeypox)
However, anyone can get and spread monkeypox.
“Anyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, can get monkeypox if they have close contact with someone infected with the virus. Most, but not all, cases of monkeypox associated with the current 2022 outbreak have been identified in gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men (MSM). While it’s important to identify which communities are most impacted by a disease for prevention efforts, it is never okay to use transmission of a disease to stigmatize or hold biases against a community.” – Richmond City Health Department.
Richmond City Health Department Website: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/richmond-city/
RCHD Vaccine info: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/richmond-city/monkeypox/
- Monkeypox in Virginia. Virginia Department of Health. https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/surveillance-and-investigation/monkeypox/monkeypox-in-virginia/#data. Accessed August 2, 2022.
- Monkeypox. Richmond City Health District. https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/richmond-city/monkeypox/. Accessed August 1, 2022.
- Monkeypox Vaccine Considerations. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/considerations-for-monkeypox-vaccination.html. Accessed August 1, 2022.
- JYNNEOS. Package insert. Bavarian Nordic A/S; 2021.
- ACAM2000. Package insert. Emergent Product Development Gaithersburg Inc.; 2018.
- Monkeypox. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22371-monkeypox. Accessed August 3, 2022.