Monkeypox: What You Need To Know

September 30, 2022

There's a good chance you've heard of monkeypox, the viral infection that causes a blister-like rash. Learn more about what it does, how it's transmitted, and how you can minimize your risk of infection.

What Is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a viral infection that creates a rash mimicking pimples or blisters and sometimes causes flu-like symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. Symptoms typically appear three weeks following exposure and the illness itself lasts two to four weeks. You can spread the virus from the time symptoms appear until your rash disappears, your scabs fall off, and fresh skin grows over them.

The current outbreak started in the United Kingdom and the first case in the United States was reported in mid-May of 2022 at Massachusetts General Hospital. There have now been over 60,000 cases confirmed worldwide. Use the CDC's map and outbreak tracker to learn more.

How Is Monkeypox Transmitted and Who Is at Risk?

While monkeypox does not spread as easily as COVID-19, it does spread through close, personal often skin-to-skin contact. However, monkeypox can be transmitted in a variety of ways, including:

  • Direct contact with an infected person

  • Touching surfaces, objects, or fabrics (bedding, towels, blankets, etc.) used by someone with monkeypox

  • Contact with fluids from an infected person, such as those from the mouth, nose, throat, and lungs

If you believe you've been exposed to monkeypox, you should contact your health care provider directly.

How Does Testing Work and Who Should Get Tested?

There's currently no blood test to diagnose monkeypox prior to the emergence of symptoms. If you've been exposed to monkeypox, you should contact your health care provider, watch for symptom development, and consider vaccination. As a result, testing is only necessary if you develop a rash consistent with the virus.

Is There a Vaccine for Monkeypox?

Fortunately, there is. The monkeypox vaccine is known as JYNNEOS and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, because it's in limited supply, individuals with the highest potential for exposure will be prioritized.

If you're interested in receiving the monkeypox vaccine, you should first determine whether you're eligible. As of now, to be eligible to receive the monkeypox vaccine in Massachusetts, you must:

  • Be someone identified as at-risk via contact tracing or risk exposure assessment (this includes sexual partners, household contacts, and health care workers)

  • Meet the following criteria regarding sexual activity:

    • Have had a sexual partner within the last 14 days with a monkeypox diagnosis

    • Have had multiple sexual partners within the last 14 days in an area with known monkeypox

Further information regarding eligibility in Massachusetts and New Hampshire can be found on each state's respective government website.

While we don't offer the monkeypox vaccine, should you determine you're eligible, you can make an appointment to receive the vaccine at one of the designated health care locations listed on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's website.