What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare but serious illness caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Prior to 2022, the majority of monkeypox cases were reported in central and west African countries. Outbreaks beyond these regions were small and rarely fatal.
Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection. One of the easiest ways for the virus to spread is through prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Anyone can contract monkeypox regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
People with monkeypox get a rash that may be located on or near the genitals and could be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth. The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing. The rash can initially look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy. Other monkeypox symptoms can include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
- Swollen lymph nodes
People with monkeypox may experience all or only a few symptoms.
On July 23, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern. On Aug. 4, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the ongoing spread of monkeypox virus in the U.S. a public health emergency.
How does monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox spreads in the following ways:
- Direct contact with an infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
- Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
- Touching objects and/or fabrics (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the rash or body fluids of someone with monkeypox
- Being scratched or bitten by an infected animal
How long do monkeypox symptoms last?
Monkeypox causes a rash, and symptoms usually start within three weeks of exposure to the virus. If someone has flu-like symptoms, they will usually develop a rash 1-4 days later.
Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. This can take several weeks.
What should I do if I think I have monkeypox?
Monkeypox can be acquired by all people, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Individuals who believe they were exposed to monkeypox or have an illness that could be monkeypox should isolate themselves immediately and contact their primary health care provider. Any Johns Hopkins student who suspects they have monkeypox should call the internal Student Health & Well-Being nurse line at 410-516-5709, seven days a week, between 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
All Johns Hopkins faculty, staff, and students who test positive for monkeypox must isolate, remain off of university property, and refrain from participating in-person in university activities (including classes) until cleared to return by Student Heath or Occupational Health. If you are infected with monkeypox, follow CDC guidance on how to isolate and disinfect at home to avoid exposing others.
Do I need to quarantine if I think I was exposed?
Per CDC guidance, individuals who have come in contact with someone who has monkeypox do not need to quarantine. They should closely monitor for signs and symptoms of monkeypox for 21 days from their last day of exposure.
How can I avoid getting monkeypox?
To reduce your risk of getting monkeypox, follow these precautions:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox
- Do not have intimate contact with someone with monkeypox
- Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox
- Wash your hands often with soap and water and/or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
If you are sick with monkeypox, follow CDC guidance on how to isolate and disinfect at home to avoid exposing others.
How can I get a monkeypox vaccine?
There are currently two vaccines that may be used for the prevention of monkeypox virus infection:
- The preferred vaccine is JYNNEOS, a two-dose vaccine currently in limited supply. It takes 14 days after getting the second dose of JYNNEOS for immune protection to reach its maximum.
- The ACAM2000 vaccine, approved by the FDA for use against smallpox, may be an alternative to JYNNEOS. ACAM2000 is a single-dose vaccine, and it takes four weeks after vaccination for immune protection to reach its maximum. It has the potential for more side effects and adverse events than JYNNEOS and is not recommended for people with severely weakened immune systems and several other conditions.
Vaccines are currently only available via local health departments, which determine who is eligible to receive a vaccine. CDC recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and people who may be more likely to get monkeypox.
Information about vaccine appointments and eligibility in Baltimore City are available on the Baltimore City Health Department website.
Maryland recently created a system that enables Maryland residents to pre-register to be notified when a monkeypox vaccine opportunity becomes available.