Questions and Answers about Monkeypox

Current Monkeypox Outbreak in the United States

As of Summer 2022, the CDC is tracking an outbreak of monkeypox that has spread across several countries that don’t normally report monkeypox, including the United States. With the current outbreak, monkeypox has become a public health concern everyone should be aware of and take steps to avoid spreading.

Below, find answers to many commonly asked questions about monkeypox, how it spreads, whether you need a vaccine and more.  

Find a U.S. map of the current outbreak here. 

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Common Questions

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. It is related to the viruses that cause smallpox and cowpox, but not related to chickenpox. Despite the name “monkeypox” the source of the disease is unknown. The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970, and monkeypox has been reported in relatively low numbers on an ongoing basis since then in some countries. Monkeypox is milder than smallpox and is rarely fatal.  

As of Summer 2022, the CDC is tracking an outbreak of monkeypox that has spread across several countries that don’t normally report monkeypox, including the United States. With the current outbreak, monkeypox has become a public health concern everyone should be aware of and take steps to avoid spreading.  

While most cases in this outbreak have been in men who have sex with men (which includes gay and bisexual men as well as others) monkeypox is NOT exclusively a sexually transmitted infection (STI or STD). It is spread through close contact, not just via sexual contact. While some groups are currently at higher risk because of where the virus is spreading, anyone can be infected with monkeypox.  

Find a map of the current outbreaks here. 

The symptoms of monkeypox infection include:  

  • A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside of mouth, and on other parts of the body like hands, feet, chest, genitals or anus  
  • Fever  
  • Headache  
  • Muscle aches and backache  
  • Swollen lymph nodes  
  • Chills  
  • Exhaustion  

The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. Sometimes, people get a rash first followed by other symptoms. Others only experience the rash.  

See photos of monkeypox and learn more about symptoms here. 

Maybe, depending on your individual circumstances. As of August 2022, monkeypox vaccines are recommended for people who are at higher risk during the current outbreak (a list of who that includes is provided below).  

There are multiple available vaccines to prevent monkeypox. In consultation with your healthcare provider, people at higher risk for infection may consider vaccination. The monkeypox vaccines can also prevent infection if given immediately after exposure to an infected person.  

The vaccines that prevent monkeypox are JYNNEOS and ACAM2000. They were originally developed to protect against the orthopox family of viruses and used to be used for smallpox vaccination. Each vaccine carries its own benefits and risks, and the vaccines (especially ACAM2000) do have some potential for side effects. JYNNEOS is the preferred vaccine for most people, but while the U.S. works to ramp up supply there are some administration changes being made to make as much vaccine available to as many high-risk people as possible.  

For these reasons, it’s important to seek a vaccine if you are at higher risk and to discuss with a healthcare provider if you can. You can read more about the vaccines that protect against monkeypox here 

People at higher risk includes anyone who has:  

  • Been identified by public health officials as a contact of someone with confirmed monkeypox  
  • Recently had contact with someone who had a rash that looks like monkeypox or someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox  
  • Had multiple sexual partners in the past 2 weeks in an area with known monkeypox  
  • A job that may expose them to orthopox viruses, such as laboratory workers who handle orthopoxvirus samples and some designated healthcare or public health workers 

Vaccines are being distributed by local and state health departments. Contact your doctor or health department to find out how you can access a vaccine in your area.  

Vaccines are being distributed by states to health clinics and vaccination centers, so consult your healthcare provider or contact your state or local healthcare department. 

While monkeypox is a virus that can infect anyone, most cases in the recent outbreak have been in men who have sex with men (which includes gay and bisexual men as well as others) – but monkeypox is NOT exclusively a sexually transmitted infection (STI or STD). 

People at higher risk include anyone who has:  

  • Been identified by public health officials as a contact of someone with confirmed monkeypox  
  • Recently had contact with someone who had a rash that looks like monkeypox or someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox  
  • Had multiple sexual partners in the past 2 weeks in an area with known monkeypox  
  • A job that may expose them to orthopox viruses, such as laboratory workers who handle orthopoxvirus samples and some designated healthcare or public health workers 

There are a few ways monkeypox can spread. Including:  

  • Direct contact with the rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person who has monkeypox 
  • Touching objects, fabric, and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox 
  • Direct contact that happens during intimate or sexual interaction 
  • A pregnant person can spread the virus to their baby 

Scientists are still researching whether:  

  • Asymptomatic spread is possible  
  • How often monkeypox is spread through respiratory droplets like coughing or sneezing 

While the 2022 outbreak in the United States has primarily impacted men who have sex with men (a term that includes any men who has sexual contact with other men, including gay men, bisexual men, and others) monkeypox is NOT a sexually transmitted infection (also known as an STI or STD). Sexual contact is one of the ways monkeypox can spread, but it is not the only way monkeypox passes from person to person.  

The U.S. declared monkeypox to be a public health emergency in August 2022. This does not mean that we are facing another pandemic at this time. It means that the U.S. is able to ramp up its response to outbreaks, including purchasing more vaccines and anti-viral medications. 
 
The public health emergency has been declared to prevent a widespread outbreak. 

Overheard on Social Media

You might have come across this myth circulating on social media. While it is technically possible to get monkeypox from touching fabric materials worn by a person with an active monkeypox infection, it is very unlikely. 

Experts have confirmed that when monkeypox spreads via fabrics it is most often in the context of a shared household where family members may share linens or clothing and have other direct contact as well.  

So while it is possible, this is NOT a primary mode of monkeypox transmission and is not cause for extra concern. Always wash your hands and wash newly purchased clothing before wearing it for a prolonged period of time.  

No. Monkeypox is a virus that can infect anyone. While most cases in the recent outbreak have been in men who have sex with men (which includes gay and bisexual men as well as others) monkeypox is NOT exclusively a sexually transmitted infection (STI or STD). It is spread through close contact, not exclusively via sexual contact. While some groups are currently at higher risk because of where the virus is spreading, anyone can be infected with monkeypox.