What is monkeypox?
On July 23, 2022, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a "public health emergency." Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as the variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
Symptoms of monkeypox can include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g., sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
- 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.
- 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.
These are some examples of what monkeypox looks like:
What do I do if I have monkeypox symptoms?
Student Health Services can facilitate monkeypox assessments. We will work in collaboration with the city to provide treatments. If a student believes they are showing symptoms, they should make an appointment as soon as possible.
If you are experiencing symptoms of monkeypox, avoid close contact with others until you have been examined by a health care provider. If you are awaiting test results for monkeypox, you should isolate within your home. If you live in a shared space on campus, Student Health will work with Housing to coordinate accommodations.
People experiencing symptoms of monkeypox or have been diagnosed with monkeypox cannot be vaccinated.
How does monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox can spread from person to person through direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids. It also can be spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex.
Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. Anyone in close personal contact with a person with monkeypox can get it and should take steps to protect themselves.
How can monkeypox be prevented?
- Avoid close or personal skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
- Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom.
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.
What is the treatment for monkeypox?
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.
If you have symptoms of monkeypox, please call the Student Health Center and ask for a telemedicine appointment. Due to the infectious nature of this virus, please call the office first and do not walk in to the office.
Most people with monkeypox recover fully within 2 to 4 weeks without the need for medical treatment.
What happens when you're exposed?
If a person is exposed to someone with monkeypox, they should call the Philadelphia Department of Public Health at 215.685.5488 to report this exposure immediately. The Department of Public Health will ask about the exposure and work with that person to set up an opportunity to receive a vaccine in order to help reduce the risk of monkeypox spread.
The vaccine must be provided as soon as possible, so making this call quickly is important. Vaccine is being distributed first to those at the highest risk, so people who may be lower risk might not get an immediate vaccine appointment.
Patients who experience symptoms of monkeypox cannot be vaccinated. Eligibility for monkeypox vaccination may change as the outbreak evolves and based on vaccine supply.
Is there a vaccine to prevent monkeypox?
Because monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, vaccines developed to protect against smallpox viruses may be used to prevent monkeypox infections.
The U.S. government has two stockpiled vaccines — JYNNEOS and ACAM2000 — that can prevent monkeypox in people who are exposed to the virus.
For prevention of getting monkeypox after being exposed, it is important that you receive the vaccine within 4 days of exposure. If you receive the vaccine 4–14 days after exposure, this could decrease symptoms but may not prevent the infection from developing.
Why are gay and bisexual cisgender men most affected by the current monkeypox outbreak?
People of any sexual orientation or gender identity can contract the virus. Monkeypox is not a "gay disease." With that said, infectious diseases are always able to spread more quickly in smaller social networks than larger ones — and the tightly-knit social network of gay and bisexual cis men is much smaller than the general population's.
Although the recent outbreaks in Europe and North America have occurred among gay and bisexual men, this is likely a result of coincidental contact with people who have MPX at one or more recent crowded LGBTQ-focused events — resulting in a cluster of cases within the community