Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus belongs to the Orthopoxvirus
genus which includes the variola (smallpox) virus as well as the vaccinia virus, which is used in the smallpox vaccine. Monkeypox is of public health concern because the illness is similar to smallpox and can be spread from infected humans, animals, and materials contaminated with the virus. Monkeypox is less transmissible and usually less severe than smallpox.
Monkeypox was first identified in 1958 and occurs primarily in Central and West African countries. Historically monkeypox cases have occurred in the U.S. rarely and mostly related to international travel or importation of animals. There is a recent significant increase in reported cases where monkeypox is not commonly seen, including in Europe, Canada, the United States and New Jersey. While it's good to stay alert about any emerging public health outbreaks, the current risk of getting monkeypox in the general public is very low.
What should I do if I think I might have Monkeypox?
- If you think you might have monkeypox seek medical care immediately.
- Call ahead before you arrive at a doctor’s office, urgent care center, or hospital so that they can be ready to isolate you from other people.
- Wear a mask to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets.
- Monkeypox rashes that occur in the genital or anal area may look like herpes or syphilis so be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you were in contact with someone who had/has monkeypox
Monkeypox might start with symptoms like the flu, with fever, low energy, swollen lymph nodes, and general body aches. Within 1 to 3 days (sometimes longer) after the appearance of fever, the person can develop a rash or sores. The sores will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing. They can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful and itchy.
The rash or sores may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butt) but could also be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, and face. They may also be limited to one part of the body.
People with monkeypox may experience all or only a few of these symptoms. Most people with monkeypox will get the rash or sores. Some people have reported developing the rash or sores before (or without) the flu-like symptoms. Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until all sores have healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed – this can take several weeks.
Monkeypox spreads primarily through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids, including during sex, as well as activities like kissing, hugging, massaging, and cuddling. Monkeypox can spread through touching materials used by a person with monkeypox that haven’t been cleaned, such as clothing and bedding. It can also spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, close, face-to-face contact.
Monkeypox can be spread through:
Monkeypox is NOT spread through:
- Direct skin-skin contact with rash lesions
- Sexual/intimate contact, including kissing
- Living in a house and sharing a bed with someone
- Sharing towels or unwashed clothing
- Respiratory secretions through prolonged face-to-face interactions (the type that mainly happens when living with someone or caring for someone who has monkeypox)
- Casual conversations
- Walking by someone with monkeypox, like in a grocery store
- Touching items like doorknobs
There are a number of ways to prevent the spread of monkeypox, including:
- Always talk to your sexual partner/s about any recent illness and be aware of new or unexplained sores or rashes on your body or your partner’s body, including on the genitals and anus
- Avoiding close contact, including sex, with people with symptoms like sores or rashes
- Practicing good hand hygiene Isolation of infected persons until their symptoms, including rash, have gone away completely
- Using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) (like a mask, gown, and gloves) when caring for others with symptoms
- Avoiding contact with infected materials contaminated with the virus
- Avoiding contact with infected animals
Residents with a known exposure to a confirmed case of monkeypox are able to access the vaccine through the Ocean County Health Department. If you have been exposed to a known case of monkeypox, please contact your healthcare provider or us here at the Health Department.
If you do not have a confirmed exposure, but believe you may have been exposed or are at high risk of having been exposed in the past 14 days, you can access the vaccine through three community partners.
If you fall into one of the above categories, please directly contact the community partners who are offering vaccines.