Updated 8/31/2022 at 1:30 PM
May 2022 marked the start of the current monkeypox outbreak, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The United States also declared monkeypox a public health emergency (PHE) in August 2022.
As monkeypox continues to spread and become a global health emergency, the information about it can be confusing, especially as that information seems to change daily.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a virus from the orthopoxvirus family. This is the same disease family as the smallpox virus, though smallpox was eradicated in 1980 thanks to global vaccine endeavors. Unlike smallpox, monkeypox is neither as easy to transmit nor as fatal.
Monkeypox can be spread from person to person, or from animals to humans. It was first found in colonies of research monkeys in 1958; however, it did not originate with, and is not limited to, monkeys.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
With monkeypox, people often develop a rash that can spread all over the human body, including the face, hands, feet, eyes, mouth, throat, and groin. The lesions may be subtle or more pronounced, and they may range from one to a few thousand. Initially, the rash may look like itchy or painful pimples or blisters.
People with monkeypox may also develop the following flu-like symptoms:
muscle ache or backache
swollen lymph nodes
Symptoms typically last two to four weeks. Some people may have the flu-like symptoms before the rash; the rash, before flu-like symptoms; or just the rash by itself.
If you suspect you may have monkeypox or have been exposed to someone with monkeypox, you should see your doctor or health care provider.
How is monkeypox transmitted?
Monkeypox can be transmitted in the following ways:
- direct contact with infectious lesions, scabs or bodily fluids
- respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact
- touching items like clothing or electronics that previously touched the infectious lesions or bodily fluids
Pregnant people may also transmit monkeypox through the placenta to the fetus.
How can I protect myself?
There are precautions you can take to protect yourself from getting monkeypox:
Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water; when not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer until you can wash your hands.
Do not handle clothing, towels, or bedding of someone who has monkeypox.
Avoid close or skin-to-skin contact with someone who has monkeypox.
Is there a vaccine for monkeypox?
Because of the genetic similarities between monkeypox and smallpox (which, as mentioned previously, has been eradicated), vaccines that have been used against smallpox may be used to treat monkeypox infections.
There are two vaccines that are used to treat monkeypox infections:
- JYNNEOS is a two-dose vaccine. It reaches maximum effect 14 days after the second dose and is the preferred vaccine for monkeypox infections.
- ACAM2000 is a one-dose vaccine. It reaches maximum effect 4 weeks after it is administered. However, ACAM2000 has the risk of more adverse side effects.
Vaccines are currently being given to those who have a higher risk of getting monkeypox. If you are a member of an at-risk population or have been exposed to monkeypox, you can call the SC DHEC CareLine to see if you are eligible to receive a vaccine.
For further information about what South Carolina is doing about the 2022 monkeypox outbreak, click here.
Still have questions? Here's a great FAQ on how the disease can - and cannot - be transmitted.