Monkeypox FAQs

Monkeypox Information

The current monkeypox situation is constantly evolving and subject to change. There are no reported cases of monkeypox in Pasadena.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is closely monitoring monkeypox transmission in the U.S. and California to ensure rapid identification of cases. The risk of monkeypox to the public is currently very low based on the information available. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory on May 20, 2022 regarding a confirmed case of monkeypox virus infection in Massachusetts as well as multiple clusters of monkeypox virus infections in other countries that do not usually have monkeypox cases. Many of the cases have occurred among persons self-identifying as men who have sex with men (MSM).

Additionally, CDPH issued an updated advisory on May 27 and also issued an advisory on May 20 to health care providers to immediately notify their local health jurisdiction (LHJ) of any potential cases.

Visit the CDC's webpage on Monkeypox in the United States and the CDPH Monkeypox Q&A page for more information.

About Monkeypox

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, but monkeypox is less transmissible than smallpox.  Monkeypox was first identified in 1958 and occurs primarily in Central and West African countries. Monkeypox cases have occurred in the U.S. (mostly related to international travel or importation of animals) but they remain very rare here.

Symptoms

In humans, symptoms of monkeypox can be similar but milder than symptoms of smallpox.

Symptoms can begin with:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

Within 1 to 3 days (sometimes longer) after the appearance of fever, the patient can develop a rash that progresses from being red and flat, to being a bump, to being water filled, to being pus-filled, to being a crust, often beginning on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body (like the extremities and genital areas).

The time from infection to symptoms for monkeypox is usually 7−14 days, but can range from 5−21 days. The illness typically lasts for 2−4 weeks.

Anyone who has symptoms of monkeypox, such as characteristic rashes or lesions, should contact a health care provider right away.

Transmission

Transmission of monkeypox virus occurs when a person comes into contact with the virus from an animal, human, or materials contaminated with the virus. The virus enters the body through broken skin (even if not visible), the respiratory tract, or the mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth). Current risk factors for contracting monkeypox include those who:

  1. Traveled (within 21 days) to an area where monkeypox cases or exposures have been reported;
  2. Reported contact with a person who has a similar rash or received a diagnosis of confirmed or suspected monkeypox; and
  3. Persons self-identifying as men who have sex with men (MSM).

Prevention

There are number of measures that can be taken to prevent infection with monkeypox virus:

  • Isolate infected patients from others who could be at risk for infection.
  • Practice good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans. For example, washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid contact with animals that could harbor the virus (including animals that are sick or that have been found dead in areas where monkeypox occurs).
  • Avoid direct contact with any materials, such as bedding or laundry, that has been in contact with a sick animal or patient. (Monkeypox virus can be killed with standard washing machine with warm water and detergent.)
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for patients, which includes gown, gloves, respirator, and eye protection.

Monkeypox Q&A

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with the monkeypox virus and is related to the smallpox virus. It can be spread from infected humans, animals, and materials contaminated with the virus. While generally less severe and much less infectious than smallpox, monkeypox can be a serious illness.

Is monkeypox a new disease?

No, monkeypox is not a new disease. Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 in monkeys, hence the name 'monkeypox.' The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The monkeypox is endemic (regularly found) in west and central African countries.

Should I be worried about monkeypox?

While it's good to stay alert about any emerging public health outbreaks, the current risk of getting monkeypox is very low. Monkeypox is a known illness that spreads through very close contact compared to other infectious diseases like COVID-19 that are primarily spread though very small particles in the air. Monkeypox is also only typically contagious when symptoms like a rash are present, making it easier for infected individuals to isolate from others to prevent further spread.

Is monkeypox related to COVID-19?

No, monkeypox is a completely different disease and is not related to COVID-19. Monkeypox is much less contagious than COVID-19 and spreads much slower. This is partly because people with monkeypox are only usually contagious to people whom they've had very close contact with when they have symptoms like a rash, compared with COVID-19 which can spread through the air and when people do not have symptoms.

Does the monkeypox virus have variants?

All viruses change and evolve over time, however, the monkeypox virus mutates slower than coronaviruses.  There are two known variants of monkeypox virus - the variant recently identified in Europe and in the U.S. is the West African strain and tends to cause less severe disease.

Who can get monkeypox?

Anyone can get monkeypox after having close physical contact with someone who has the infection, especially contact with infected lesions or other bodily fluids. However, the current risk to the public is low.

In 2022, many cases of monkeypox have been reported in several countries that don't normally report monkeypox, like in the United States, including California. Though not exclusively, these cases include gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, and household contacts.

How is monkeypox transmitted?

Monkeypox spreads primarily between people through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids, including during sex as well as activities like kissing and cuddling. It can be spread by respiratory secretions (talking, coughing, sneezing, breathing) during prolonged, face-to-face contact. At this time, it is not known if monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids. Monkeypox can also spread through touching contaminated materials, such as clothing and bedding.

What are the signs and symptoms of monkeypox?

Monkeypox can 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 that progresses from red and flat, to a bump, to water-filled, to pus-filled, to a crust, often beginning on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body (like the arms, legs, and genitals). It may also be limited to one part of the body.

When is monkeypox infectious?

Infection with monkeypox virus begins with an incubation period. A person is not contagious during this period. Usually, people are only infectious when they have symptoms, including rash.

The incubation period averages 7−14 days but can range from 5−21 days. During this period, a person does not have symptoms and may feel fine.

How serious is monkeypox?

Most cases are mild but monkeypox can be severe and can also lead to death.

Is monkeypox a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?

Monkeypox can spread from skin-to-skin contact, or because of contact with a contaminated surface or material. This includes close or intimate physical contact with infected people, including sexual contact, and especially when touching rashes or contaminated objects or surfaces. Scientists are trying to better understand if virus could be present in semen or vaginal fluids, but this has not previously been noted as a route of transmission.

How is monkeypox prevented?

There are number of measures that can be taken to prevent infection with monkeypox virus, including:

  • isolation of infected persons until their symptoms, including rash, has gone away completely,
  • practicing good hand hygiene,
  • avoiding close contact with people with symptoms like sores or rashes,
  • avoiding contact with infected animals and materials contaminated with the virus,
  • and using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) (like a mask, gown and gloves) when caring for others with symptoms.

What should someone do if they are exposed to monkeypox or have symptoms?

Contact a health care provider as soon as possible and let them know you have symptoms or have been exposed to monkeypox. Health care providers and local health departments may recommend a vaccine for those who are exposed to help prevent infection or decrease the seriousness of the illness.  Health care providers can also provide care for people who test positive.

What is CDPH doing about monkeypox?

CDPH is closely monitoring monkeypox transmission in the U.S. and California, to ensure rapid identification of cases. CDPH is working with local health officials, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure appropriate care and response, including laboratory testing, contact tracing, and obtaining vaccine to support local vaccination efforts for high-risk contacts (people who have been exposed).

Additionally, CDPH is promoting awareness amongst health care providers and the public, including appropriate infection control for monkeypox cases in the healthcare setting. Because monkeypox is rare and the possibility of transmission during intimate or sexual contact may not be well known, CDPH is working to help health care providers and the public become familiar with the symptoms and appearance of monkeypox.

UC Davis Health What is Monkeypox? Symptoms, Transmission and Vaccination Questions Answered

(Video courtesy of UC Davis Health)

Where can I find more information?