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Monkeypox Disease

Monkeypox is a contagious disease caused by the monkeypox virus. Currently, there is a worldwide outbreak which includes the U.S. and New York City. Monkeypox can be acquired by all people, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Most of the cases are occurring in social networks of men who have sex with men and individuals with multiple or anonymous sex partners.

The monkeypox virus is most often spread through:

  • Direct contact with a rash or sores of someone who has the virus, or from coming in contact with clothing, bedding or other items used by the person with the virus.
  • Respiratory droplets passed through prolonged face-to-face contact

Monkeypox is not as contagious as COVID-19 or the flu. The risk of spread is high during oral sex, anal sex, vaginal sex and other intimate contact such as hugging, kissing, cuddling and massage.

Symptoms

Symptoms usually start within two weeks after exposure but may not appear for up to 21 days.

The most common symptom is a rash or sores that may look like pimples or blisters. The rash or sores may be all over the body or on certain parts, such as the face, hands or feet, or around or inside the mouth, genitals or anus.

Some people also experience flu-like symptoms — such as fever, chills, headaches, muscle or back aches, swollen lymph nodes, or tiredness — before or at the same time as the rash or sores.

Recent cases have been mild. Most people got better on their own and were not hospitalized. The disease, however, can sometimes be more severe. Even with mild illness, the rash and sores may be itchy and painful and last for two to four weeks.

A person is contagious until all sores have healed and a new layer of skin has formed, which can take two to four weeks.

If You Have Symptoms

If you start experiencing symptoms, isolate from others immediately and talk to your health care provider. If you do not have a health care provider, call 1-844-NYC-4NYC.

HIV and other conditions that weaken your immune system; and a history of atopic dermatitis or eczema may increase the risk of severe disease if you are infected. If you have symptoms and one of these conditions, it is especially important to see a provider right away .

Your health care provider will review your symptoms and decide if you need to get tested for monkeypox. The monkeypox test consists of swabbing skin lesions and must be done by a health care professional and sent to a laboratory for results. It is important to isolate from others while you are waiting for your test results, which may take several days.

Vaccination

The JYNNEOS vaccine has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the prevention of monkeypox in people ages 18 and older. The vaccine requires two doses,  four weeks apart.

In New York City, the vaccine is available to eligible adults at a NYC Health Department clinic. Vaccine supply is limited.

Visit nyc.gov/health/monkeypox to learn more about eligibility and where you can get vaccinated.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment approved for monkeypox and most people get better on their own. However, antiviral medications used to treat smallpox may help those with severe monkeypox disease. If you test positive, your health care provider will help you find out if you are eligible for antiviral treatment.

Prevention

To reduce your chance of getting and spreading monkeypox:Do not have sex or close physical contact if you or your partner feel sick and have a new or unexpected rash or sore.If you are sick and have a new unexpected rash or sore, avoid parties or gatherings until you have talked to a health care provider.If you choose to have sex while sick, avoid kissing and other face-to-face contact. Cover all sores with clothing or sealed bandages. This may help reduce — but not eliminate — the risk of transmission.Wash your hands, sex toys and bedding before and after sex or other intimate activities.

Additional Resources