Human monkeypox is a rare but serious illness caused by infection with the monkeypox virus, which can infect humans and other animals, such as monkeys and rodents. The human monkeypox virus belongs to the genus Orthopoxvirus. The Orthopoxvirus genus also includes variola virus (which causes smallpox), vaccinia virus (used in the smallpox vaccine), and cowpox virus.
In May 2022, several clusters of human monkeypox cases were reported in countries that don't normally report human monkeypox, including the United States. People with monkeypox in the current outbreak generally report having close, sustained physical contact with other people who have monkeypox. Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Early data suggest that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men make up a high number of cases.
CDC is urging healthcare providers in the United States to be alert for patients who have rash illnesses consistent with monkeypox, regardless of whether they have travel or specific risk factors for monkeypox and regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
CDC is working with state and local health officials to identify people who may have been in contact with individuals who have tested positive for monkeypox, so they can monitor their health.
Symptoms of monkeypox can include:
The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.
For more information, check out CDC's website.
Monkeypox spreads in different ways. The virus can spread from person-to-person through:
Monkeypox can spread 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. People who do not have monkeypox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others. At this time, it is not known if monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids.
Take the following steps to prevent getting monkeypox:
If you think you have been exposed to monkeypox or have symptoms, talk with your healthcare provider. Healthcare providers who suspect human monkeypox in a patient can now order testing directly through some commercial laboratories. Providers seeking monkeypox virus testing at the MDH laboratory must get health department approval prior to submitting specimens and follow the
There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections. However, 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.
There are two vaccines licensed for preventing monkeypox infection: ACAM 2000 and JYNNEOS. Monkeypox vaccines are effective at protecting people against monkeypox when given before exposure to monkeypox. Experts also believe that vaccination after a monkeypox exposure may help prevent the disease or make it less severe.
The sooner an exposed person gets the vaccine, the better. CDC recommends that the vaccine be given within 4 days from the date of exposure in order to prevent onset of the disease. If given between 4–14 days after the date of exposure, vaccination may reduce the symptoms of disease, but may not prevent the disease.
The vaccine supply in Maryland is currently limited. At the moment, vaccine is being prioritized for people who have a known exposure to someone with monkeypox.
At this time, the risk to the general public appears to be low. During the current global monkeypox outbreak, transmission is primarily through prolonged, close, physical, intimate contact with someone who has MPX. There have not been any MPX cases identified among healthcare providers evaluating and treating patients with MPX, or people who have had casual exposure to someone with monkeypox like sitting next to them on an airplane. Early data suggest that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men make up a majority of MPX cases but it is important to remember that anyone who has been in close, physical, contact with someone who has MPX is at risk, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Fact Sheet: Social Gatherings, Safer Sex, and Monkeypox
If you have a new or unexplained rash or sores, especially after having fever, headache, or swollen lymph nodes, or if you have had close, physical, intimate contact with someone who has been diagnosed with MPX, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
There is currently limited MPX vaccine available, so Maryland is prioritizing vaccine for people who have a known exposure to someone with MPX. If you think you have had an exposure, talk with your healthcare provider. The sooner an exposed contact gets the vaccine, the better it will reduce the symptoms. As vaccine supply increases, the plan in Maryland is to expand vaccine priorities from only people with known exposures to people who are at higher risk of either exposure or having significant severe disease if infected.