Monkeypox

Monkeypox is a rare viral disease. It occurs in rodents and non-human primates in central and West Africa. Infection can spread from animals to humans and then from one person to another.

Monkeypox does not normally occur in animals in the United States, but rare cases have happened in animals imported from areas where the disease is more common. In the past, people in the United States who developed monkeypox had usually traveled internationally or were infected by animals imported to the U.S.

Current status

In the United States: View the latest update from the CDC.

In Washington state: On May 27, 2022, DOH and Public Health Seattle-King County confirmed a case of monkeypox virus infection in King County.

Update 6/21/2022: Four people in King County have tested positive for orthopoxvirus. All positive cases of orthopoxvirus are considered likely monkeypox.

Transmission

Transmission of monkeypox requires close interaction with a symptomatic individual. Brief interactions that do not involve physical contact and healthcare interactions conducted using appropriate protective equipment are not high risk.

The monkeypox virus can be transmitted from person to person by:

  1. direct contact with the skin or body fluids of an infected person (including sexual contact), or
  2. contact with virus-contaminated objects (such as bedding or clothing), or
  3. respiratory droplets during direct and prolonged face-to-face contact.

Humans can also get monkeypox from contact with infected animals.

People with a confirmed case of monkeypox are contagious as soon as they develop symptoms and continue to be contagious until the scabs fall off the rash. A person with monkeypox should isolate from others until the scabs fall off.

Symptoms

The illness often begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes (swollen glands), a general feeling of discomfort, and exhaustion. A few days later, the person develops a rash. Some people may not have any symptoms prior to the start of the rash.

The rash will turn into raised bumps, which then fill with fluid. The rash eventually scabs over, and the scabs fall off. Typically, the rash is mostly on the face, arms, legs, and hands. However, if a person was infected during sexual contact, the rash might only be on the genitals. If a person was infected through anal sex, they may develop anal or rectal irritation.

The incubation period (time from exposure to the start of symptoms) for monkeypox is usually 7-14 days but can range from 5-21 days.

Most people recover in 2-4 weeks, but the disease can be serious, especially for immunocompromised people, children, and pregnant people.

People who may have symptoms of monkeypox should contact their healthcare provider. Before the visit, they should notify their healthcare provider that they are concerned about monkeypox, and whether they recently had close contact with a person who had a similar rash or a person who has been diagnosed with monkeypox.

Treatment for people with monkeypox

Currently, there is no specific treatment approved for monkeypox. Clinicians can consider certain antiviral medications for people with severe disease or people at high risk of developing severe disease.

Treatment for people who were exposed to monkeypox

Depending on the situation, people who had close or intimate exposure to a person with monkeypox might be advised to get a vaccine for monkeypox. Because of this, it is important to identify people who were exposed to monkeypox.

Currently, vaccination to prevent monkeypox is not recommended for the general public.

Learn more