Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox symptoms are generally mild, and most people are able to recover at home. It does not spread easily between people without close, prolonged contact and the threat of monkeypox to the general U.S. population remains low.
The incubation period (time from infection to onset of symptoms) is usually from 6 to 13 days, but can range from 5 to 21 days.
Symptoms of monkeypox:
Early flu-like symptoms such as:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
A rash (usually within 1-3 days after the onset of fever) that can look like blisters that can appear on the:
- Inside the mouth
- Other parts of the body like hands, feet, chest, genitals or anus
Be aware that symptoms may vary. A person can experience all or just a few of these symptoms. Some people experience a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.
If you think you have monkeypox
Call your healthcare provider and inform them of your symptoms. Even if you don’t know if you’ve been exposed to monkeypox, new flu-like symptoms and/or rashes should be assessed virtually by your health care provider. Unless you are in an emergency situation, symptoms should be assessed through virtual appointments with a healthcare provider to avoid overwhelming the hospital and urgent care system. While diagnosis is being confirmed and you are waiting on test results, you should isolate at home.
Exposure to monkeypox
How monkeypox spreads
Monkeypox is rare and does not spread easily without close contact with someone who is symptomatic. While death from monkeypox is rare, symptoms can become severe and painful. It’s important to understand how monkeypox spreads so that you can avoid situations that may put you at a higher risk. Monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact such as:
- Direct contact with infectious rash, scabs, sores, or body fluids.
- Contact such as hugging, kissing, massaging, sexual activity or talking closely.
- Close, prolonged contact with respiratory droplets or oral fluids from a person with monkeypox.
- Touching items such as clothing, bedding, towels or surfaces used by someone with monkeypox.
- Pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta.
If you have been exposed to monkeypox
If you suspect that you may have been exposed to an individual or animal with monkeypox, it is highly recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while quarantine is not necessary, you monitor yourself for symptoms for 21 days after the last exposure.
If symptoms develop:
- A new or unexplained rash, sores, or other related symptoms could be indicative of monkeypox, so if symptoms begin, be sure to:
- Contact your health care provider. If you do not have one, you can contact the Springfield-Greene County Health Department at 417-874-1211 for more information on next steps.
- Immediately self-isolate and avoid close contact, sex or being intimate with anyone until you have been checked out. Please see full isolation guidelines here.
- Avoid close contact with pets or other animals until a healthcare provider examines you.
If you are/remain asymptomatic:
- You can continue with daily activities like work or school.
- Don’t donate blood, cells, tissue, breast milk, semen, or organs while monitoring your symptoms.
What to do if you have Monkeypox
If symptoms have developed, you will need to isolate at home until you are no longer considered contagious to other people. This occurs after all lesions have resolved, scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed. This could take up to 2-4 weeks.
The CDC recommends the following steps for isolation:
- Do not leave the home except as required for emergencies or follow-up medical care.
- Isolate in a room or area separate from other household members and pets when possible.
- Do not share dishes, other eating utensils, bed linens, clothing, towels, wash cloths, or drinking glasses with others.
- Avoid close contact with others, including sexual activity that involves direct physical contact.
- Avoid contact with unaffected individuals until the rash has resolved, the scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed.
- Friends, family or others without an essential need to be in the home should not visit.
- Limit use of spaces, items, and food that are shared with other household members.
- If possible, use a separate bathroom if there are others who live in the same household. Please see CDC instructions on when it is not possible to use a separate bathroom here.
- It is not necessary for the infected person to use separate utensils if properly washed.
- Wash soiled dishes and eating utensils in a dishwasher or by hand with warm water and soap.
While isolating, you should:
- Routinely clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and items, such as counters or light switches
- Use an EPA-registered disinfectant like hydrogen peroxide wipes (full list here) in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Wear well-fitting source control like a medical mask when in close contact with others at home.
- Avoid use of contact lenses to prevent inadvertent infection of the eye.
- Avoid shaving rash-covered areas of the body as this can lead to spread of the virus.
- Try to avoid contaminating upholstered furniture and other porous materials that cannot be laundered by placing coversheets, waterproof mattress covers, blankets, or tarps over these surfaces.
- Additional precautions such as steam cleaning can be considered if there is concern about contamination.
- Follow all prevention recommendations and treatment provided by a healthcare provider.
- You will need to inform the health department of other individuals who may have been exposed to monkeypox. Identifying potential contacts will help them receive the proper treatments and protect others in the community from getting infected with monkeypox.
Although there are no specific treatments for monkeypox, its genetic similarity to smallpox may allow antiviral drugs and vaccines that have been developed to protect against smallpox be used to prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections.
Frequently Asked Questions
Fatalities or severe illness from monkeypox is rare in non-endemic countries, with most cases being mild.
No, the two are very different. While COVID-19 can be spread through asymptomatic people, monkeypox cannot.
Monkeypox is not found exclusively in one group of people. Anyone who has had close, physical contact such as kissing, sex, or other skin-to-skin contact with someone who has monkeypox or touching infected surfaces or material, can contract it.
Children < 8 years of age, individuals who are pregnant or immunocompromised, and individuals with a history of atopic dermatitis or eczema may be at increased risk.
- Have a healthy dialogue with your sexual partner/s about any recent illnesses, sores, rashes, on your or your partner’s body including the genitals and anus.
- Avoid close contact like kissing or sex with people who have rashes or sores.
- Avoid animals that may be infected or touching contaminated materials (bed linens, sex toys)
- Wash your hands consistently
- If you’re caring for others who have monkeypox, use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and contain and dispose of contaminated waste.
Monkeypox virus, specifically the West African clade of Monkeypox virus that is currently circulating, is a poxvirus. Poxviruses are known to survive for longer periods of time in linens, clothing and on environmental surfaces, particularly when in a dark, cool, and low humidity environment.
While there is no specific timeframe to how long monkeypox can last on surfaces, there have been cases where a live poxvirus has survived in an unoccupied home for up to 15 days. Basic household cleaner that is EPA-registered can deactivate the virus. However, whenever possible a person with monkeypox should change their own bandages and handle contaminated linens while wearing disposable gloves, followed by immediate handwashing after removing gloves. Any clothing that contacts the rash during dressing changes should be washed immediately and gloves disposed of. Always wash your hands after disposing of gloves.
For more information about monkeypox, visit CDC.gov/monkeypox.