What to Know About Monkeypox

Yale Health is closely monitoring the global monkeypox outbreak. The information below summarizes:

  • Monkeypox: what it is, its symptoms, how it is treated, and how to prevent infection
  • Vaccine to prevent infection
  • How to protect yourself and others

Information about the monkeypox outbreak is continually being updated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Connecticut State Department of Health.

  

What is monkeypox and how is it spread?

Monkeypox is a viral infection (MPX) caused by the monkeypox virus, which is related to smallpox though much less severe. Historically endemic in west and central Africa, monkeypox is currently occurring in over 83 countries including the United States. Most states in the US are reporting cases states in the US are reporting cases and a Connecticut state dashboard is updated weekly on Tuesdays.

While identified cases are currently very low, they are rising, and the federal government has declared monkeypox a public health emergency.

Monkeypox spreads primarily through close skin-to-skin contact with the infectious rash or lesions. Other less common ways the virus is spread is through contact with an infected persons respiratory secretions or touching objects or fabrics that have come in contact with infectious lesions. Most cases to date have been related to sexual activity in the prior 1-3 weeks. At this time, monkeypox is not known to spread by the airborne route or by people who do not have symptoms.

 

What are the symptoms? 

Symptoms of monkeypox include flu-like symptoms, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes, and a rash that can look like pimples, bumps, or blisters. Lesions may appear on the face, inside the mouth, or other parts of the body including hands, feet, genitals, or anus and rectum. The lesions may be itchy or painful and may be associated with rectal pain or bleeding. 

Individuals are infectious until lesions are fully resolved, which can take 2- 4 weeks. A person with monkeypox should isolate at home until lesions have healed, scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed. Patients need to wear a mask and avoid skin or mucosal contact with household members and mammalian pets.

 

What should I do if I have symptoms?

Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible to be tested. Specimens for testing must be obtained by a healthcare provider, who will swab a lesion and submit the sample to either a commercial lab or the state of Connecticut for testing. Results may take several days to process.

Yale Health is prepared to provide clinical evaluation, testing, and vaccination guidance for members. Please call your primary care provider if you develop symptoms of monkeypox or have been exposed. Those with other insurance should seek care through their own healthcare provider.

 

Who is at risk of infection?

Anyone can get monkeypox if they have been exposed. Currently, monkeypox is disproportionately affecting some gay and bisexual men, transgender and non-binary people. Infection is not limited by gender or sexuality and can spread to anyone where there may be close, personal and often skin-to-skin contact. Behaviors linked to higher risk of monkeypox transmission include multiple sex partners and anonymous sexual encounters in the previous 1-3 weeks.

 

How is it treated?

In most cases, monkeypox infection is mild and resolves without treatment. However, medications developed to treat smallpox (tecovirimat or TPOXX) are available for patients who are at risk for more severe disease from monkeypox. Standard treatments are available for symptoms of pain and itching from lesions and can be prescribed by a healthcare provider. 

 

Is there a vaccine that can help prevent infection?

Vaccines developed for use against smallpox are being used to prevent monkeypox following exposure, or to reduce the likelihood of infection in those at increased risk of exposure.There is currently a limited supply of JYNNEOS vaccine and vaccination is prioritized for individuals at the highest risk of exposure. The vaccine is currently administered as 2 doses 28 days apart, with full protection effective by 14 days after the second dose.

At present, the vaccine is available only through a network of community partner clinics around the state:

*Please Note: Fair Haven Clinic is charging a $25 administration fee which will be reimbursed by Yale Health on request). 

Vaccine supplies are limited so it is possible that individuals will be placed on a waiting list.

Yale Health will not be administering the vaccine at this time.

Vaccine is currently available in Connecticut for two groups: 

  1. Individuals exposed to a known or likely monkeypox case while that person was symptomatic. Anyone who believes they may have been exposed to someone with monkeypox should contact their local health department directly to obtain an expedited referral for post-exposure vaccination, which is most effective in the first 4 days following exposure and can be effective up to 14 days. 
  2. Individuals with no identified exposure but are at increased risk based on Connecticut Department of Public Health criteria. Eligible individuals may request appointments for vaccinations by calling the state-designated community partner clinics directly.

Eligible individuals must meet ALL of the following criteria:

People who are aware that a sexual partner in the past 14d was diagnosed with monkeypox AND

Had multiple sexual partners in the past 14 days in a jurisdiction (e.g. city/state/county) with known monkeypox AND

Age 18 or older AND

Connecticut resident or student studying in CT

Are there other preventive measures?

Other health and safety measures can reduce the likelihood of either infection or transmission, including:

  • Avoiding close physical contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox or has a suspicious rash 

  • Avoiding handling bedding, towels, or clothing of someone who has or may have monkeypox 

  • Washing hands frequently

  • Taking steps to reduce your risk of exposure during activities where there is likely to be skin-to-skin contact, such as sex and certain social gatherings. 

Last updated 08/18/2022