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Monkeypox

Monkeypox

What is it?

Monkeypox is caused by the monkeypox virus. The virus belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus, which includes variola virus (which causes smallpox), vaccinia virus (used in the smallpox vaccine) and the cowpox virus.

Infections with the type of monkeypox virus identified in the current outbreak—the West African type—are rarely fatal. Over 99% of people who get this form of the disease are likely to survive. People who are at higher risk of serious illness or ever death include:

  • people with weakened immune systems
  • children under 8 years of age
  • people with a history of eczema
  • people who are pregnant or chestfeeding

Although the West African type is rarely fatal, symptoms can be extremely painful, and people might have permanent scarring resulting from the rash.

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Disease history

Monkeypox was discovered in 1958 in a monkey kept for research. Prior to the 2022 outbreak, monkeypox had been reported in humans in several central and western African countries. Almost all human cases outside of Africa can be linked to international travel to countries where monkeypox is endemic or through imported animals and has historically been rare in the United States.

Starting in the summer of 2022, a global surge in cases began; Nevada has confirmed cases.

How does it spread?

Monkeypox is spread through close, personal often skin-to-skin contact including:

  • Contact with infectious rash, scabs, or bodily fluids from a person infected with monkeypox
  • Respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact such as kissing, sex, cuddling or chestfeeding
  • Touching surfaces, and items (such as clothing or linens) that came into contact with infectious rash or bodily fluids
  • Pregnant people can spread to their fetus through the placenta
  • Contact with infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten, or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal

Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash is fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. People who are not experiencing symptoms cannot spread the virus to others, and the illness typically lasts between 2-4 weeks.

Symptoms

Symptoms typically appear six to 13 days after exposure but can take up to three weeks to appear. They usually last two to four weeks. Some people may experience all or only a few symptoms. Most people with monkeypox will get a rash, and some may develop flu-like symptoms.

Symptoms may include:

  • Rash that looks like pimples or blisters on face, inside of the mouth, hands, feet, genitals or anus
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)

Prevention

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
  • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.


If you are sick with monkeypox:

  • Isolate at home
  • If you have an active rash or other symptoms, stay in a separate room or area away from people or pets you live with, when possible.

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Vaccines

Due to the limited supply at this time, vaccines are meant for individuals already exposed to the virus. Individuals are not recommended to receive a pre-exposure vaccine unless you are a clinician or laboratorian in the United States performing the orthopoxvirus test to diagnose orthopoxviruses, including monkeypox virus.

At this time, most clinicians in the United States and laboratorians not performing the orthopoxvirus generic test to diagnose orthopoxviruses, including monkeypox, are not advised to receive orthopoxvirus PrEP. Regardless of whether they get PrEP, clinicians and laboratorians should use recommended infection control practices.

Available vaccines:

There are two FDA approved monkeypox vaccines (Jynneos and ACAM2000), but only Jynneos is currently available in Nevada.

  • JYNNEOS vaccine (also known as Imvamune or Imvanex) — two injections four weeks apart. Recipients are considered to reach maximum immunity 14 days after receiving their second dose. This vaccine is shown to be up to 85% effective in preventing the disease.
    • In the United States, there is currently a limited supply of JYNNEOS, although more is expected in coming weeks and months. It is currently being allocated by health departments based on highest risk exposure.
  • ACAM2000 vaccine — one dose. Recipients are considered to reach maximum immunity 1 month after their dose. There is currently no data on the effectiveness of the ACAM2000 vaccine from the current outbreak. There is an ample supply of ACAM2000.

Where to get the vaccine

At this time, you may be able to get a vaccine if you are at high risk following a confirmed or presumed monkeypox exposure. Vaccines are only available through local health departments.

  • Carson City, Douglas, Lyon & Storey Counties
    • Carson City Health and Human Services – 775-887-2190
  • Clark County
    • Southern Nevada Health District – 702-759-1200
  • Washoe County
    • Washoe County Health District – 775-328-2402
  • Rural communities
    • Contact their local health authority or community health nurse
    • Email the Division of Public and Behavioral Health

What misinformation is circulating about monkeypox?

Myth:

Monkeypox is a new disease.

Truth:

Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in a group of monkeys kept for research, according to the CDC. The first case of monkeypox in a human was documented in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the CDC.  The virus has recently resurfaced in areas that don’t typically see the disease, including in Canada, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Myth:

Monkeypox is a disease of the LGBTQ community

Truth:

Though some recent monkeypox cases have been identified in men who have sex with men, public health experts are concerned about discriminatory language that falsely associates those within the LGTBQ community with the virus. Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease. It can spread through any intimate contact with someone who has an active rash, or by touching contaminated surfaces.

United Nations health officials have expressed concern over the homophobic and racist stereotypes being promoted by media outlets reporting on the virus and reiterated that anyone can become infected.

Myth:

Monkeypox is as contagious as COVID

Truth:

Monkeypox is not considered as contagious as COVID because it is primarily spread by skin-to-skin contact and only when symptoms are active.