It is very important to keep up to date on the spread of illnesses that may affect your health and those that you love. I want to share the latest news and learnings on monkeypox, the virus that primarily is infecting gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men — so I put together these FAQs.
What is monkeypox?
It is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus. This virus is in the family of Orthopoxvirus genus, which also includes smallpox. Previously this was a virus found in parts of Africa but now is in the US, Europe and Canada. Monkeypox is spread from person to person, and the infection can be pretty painful and dangerous for some.
As of November 4, 2022 the CDC states there have been 28,657 total cases in the US with 9 deaths. Globally there are 78,229 cases documented. The data indicates that this affects primarily gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. Even though this is the case, anyone that has direct contact with a monkeypox lesion can get monkeypox.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
Often the symptoms begin with a flu-like illness with fever and low energy. Sometimes you can have swollen lymph nodes and body aches. Not everybody experiences the above symptoms, but the defining symptom of monkeypox is a rash. These symptoms can last 1-3 days but for some last longer and then skin lesions can form. For some, skin lesions are the first sign of Monkeypox. The sores go through several stages before healing:
- Open lesions
Most commonly these are found on the genitals (penis, anus, vagina) but can be on other parts of the body as well including inside the mouth. These lesions can be extremely painful and/or itchy, though in some people they can be very subtle, appearing as only one or two lesions. Because the lesions are often on the genitals or the anus, it can be mistaken for an STI such as syphilis.
Again, please remember that any of the above symptoms may happen and in any order so if you suspect you may have Monkeypox please see your local provider right away and refrain from any direct contact with other, especially sexually.
It’s important to know that some patients only have the rash, and no flu-like symptoms. Others have flu-like symptoms for days before developing a rash. Medical providers are noticing is that this rash can really differ from person to person. So if you have any reason to suspect monkeypox please contact your medical provider right away.
How is monkeypox spread?
The virus enters the body through:
- Skin contact with the sores or scabs of someone with Monkeypox, during sexual contact or other intimate contact.
- Direct contact with body fluid from a person with Monkeypox (drainage from the sores, saliva that has contact with the sores, the mouth).
- Respiratory secretions from close contact of breathing into each other’s faces during kissing and intimate contact.
- Touching things like towels that may have the fluids from the infected person still on them.
While monkeypox can be transmitted through non-sexual contact, a growing body of evidence shows that in the current outbreak the virus is being spread through sex, both anal and oral sex, primarily among men who have sex with men.
You can not get Monkeypox from:
- Attending an outdoor event when folks are fully clothed
- Trying on clothes or shoes at a store
- Traveling on or in public transportation
- Casual contact with folks
How do I make sure I don’t get monkeypox?
It is ok to talk about this with your partners. Don’t be shy . . . ask if they have been exposed or if they have any symptoms. It’s ok to even ask if they have any sores in the genitals. You have a right to know. Avoid direct contact (kissing, rubbing, cuddling etc) with anybody who has any symptoms of Monkeypox.
At this time if you are unvaccinated it is recommended that your avoid anonymous sexual activity.
Should I get vaccinated?
Yes! You can get vaccinated prior to any exposure but you can also get vaccinated quickly after a known exposure to help prevent serious illness.
Where can I get a vaccine?
Every state is a bit different, so do an online search for vaccine sources in your community or state. Some states have certain requirements about who is eligible, so please read carefully to see if you qualify.
What should I do if I think I have monkeypox?
Don’t stress! Contact your medical provider and if you don’t have one you can use this website to help find one. While waiting to find out if you have the virus, keep any rash areas covered and wear a mask when in public. Here is more information about isolation.
How long am I contagious?
You are contagious until all of the lesions have completely healed, the scabs are gone and new skin is intact. This can take several weeks. If you have a confirmed or suspected case of monkeypox you need to avoid contact with others until the rash is entirely gone.
What is the treatment for monkeypox?
Most people do not require treatment as the infection is self limiting, but if you are at all concerned then contact a local medical provider. There are antiviral medication that are sometimes used to treat Monkeypox, such as tecovirimat (TPOXX). If the rash is in a sensitive spot like the eyes or genitals then the antiviral may be used to prevent the rash from worsening.
Some people are at risk of more severe illness, including the immunocompromised, young children under 8, and pregnant and breastfeeding folks
Here is a patient treatment guide that may be helpful if you know or suspect you have Monkeypox.
If you are a Nurx patient, please feel free to reach out to us here at Nurx if you have any more questions — our medical staff is happy to help. However, know that we do not evaluate or treat Monkeypox via telemedicine and you should be seen in person.
This blog provides information about telemedicine, health and related subjects. The blog content and any linked materials herein are not intended to be, and should not be construed as a substitute for, medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any reader or person with a medical concern should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other healthcare provider. This blog is provided purely for informational purposes. The views expressed herein are not sponsored by and do not represent the opinions of Nurx™.