Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by a monkeypox virus infection. The first human case was identified in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and since then the infection has been reported in people from other central and western African countries. It has recently been identified in Europe, South America, Australia, and the U.S.
Monkeypox symptoms include fever and lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms, and groin). A characteristic rash with lesions develops not long after these signs appear.
A person with monkeypox is most contagious when a rash develops, but they can transmit the disease as soon as they show signs and symptoms.
Currently, there is no treatment specifically approved for monkeypox virus infections. Antivirals developed for use in patients with smallpox may prove beneficial. For details, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Interim Guidance for the Treatment of Monkeypox.The treatment is for severe disease and it is given in a hospital. It is not available in UT Physicians clinics.
JYNNEOS (also known as Imvamune or Imvanex) and ACAM2000 are the two currently licensed vaccines in the United States to prevent smallpox. These vaccines are available from the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). JYNNEOS is also licensed specifically to prevent monkeypox. To determine your eligibility for the vaccine or to book an appointment, please contact the Houston Health Department at 832-393-4220.
A tissue sample is needed to properly diagnose monkeypox. A health care expert must swab an active lesion to confirm monkeypox disease.
Patients may receive their results up to 48 hours from the day of testing.
- Do not leave the home except as required for emergencies or follow-up medical care.
- Persons without an essential need to be in the home should not visit.
- Avoid close contact with others.
- Avoid close contact with pets in the home.
- Abstain from all sexual activity.
- Do not share items that could be contaminated by the lesions (e.g., bed linens, clothing, towels, wash cloths). Do not share drinking glasses or eating utensils.
- Routinely clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and items (e.g., counters, light switches) using an EPA-registered disinfectant in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Wear a well-fitting mask or respirator for source control when in close contact with others at home.
- Avoid use of contact lenses to prevent inadvertent infection of the eye.
- Avoid shaving areas of the body with lesions as this can lead to spread of the virus.
- If possible, use a separate bathroom if there are others who live in the same household.
- If there is not a separate bathroom in the home, the patient should clean and disinfect surfaces (e.g., counters, toilet seats, faucets) using an EPA-registered household cleaning product after using a shared space if the lesions are exposed (e.g., showering, toileting, changing bandages covering the lesions). Consider disposable glove use while cleaning if lesions are present on the hands.
- Avoid contact with unaffected individuals until lesions have resolved, scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed.
- Isolate in a room or area separate from other household members and pets when possible.
- Do not share dishes and other eating utensils. It is not necessary for the infected person to use separate utensils if properly washed. Wash soiled dishes and eating utensils in a dishwasher or by hand with warm water and soap.
- Avoid direct contact with upholstered furniture and porous materials that cannot be laundered by placing coversheets, waterproof mattress covers, blankets, or tarps over these surfaces. Additional precautions such as steam cleaning can be considered if there is concern about contamination.
The monkeypox virus is transmitted through close contact with an infected person or animal. Animal-to-person spread occurs through bites or scratches, anything that breaks the skin. Person-to-person spread occurs through airborne droplets (from a cough or sneeze) or touching the lesions of an infected person.
By taking proper precautions, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from the monkeypox disease. Safety measures include:
- Avoiding contact with infected people or animals
- Avoiding contact with materials or objects that infected individuals or animals may have recently touched
- Practicing proper hand hygiene
Watch for signs and symptoms of monkeypox including a fever greater than 100°, chills, new lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, and groin), and a recently developed skin rash up to 21 days after the exposure. Contact your health care provider if you develop any of these signs or symptoms.
Young children (less than 8 years of age), individuals who are pregnant or immunocompromised, and those with a history of atopic dermatitis or eczema may be at an especially increased risk for severe outcomes from monkeypox disease.
- If possible, friends or family members should care for healthy animals until the owner has fully recovered.
- Keep any potentially infectious bandages, textiles (e.g., clothes, bedding), and other items away from pets, other domestic animals, and wildlife.
- There is currently no evidence that animals apart from mammals can become infected and transmit monkeypox.
For more information on if monkeypox can be transmitted sexually, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s page.
In general, breastfeeding is not recommended if you test positive for monkeypox. Please contact your OB-GYN to discuss your options.
Children ages 7 and younger may be at an increased risk for severe outcomes from monkeypox disease.
In general, we prefer to evaluate patients via telehealth. To schedule a telehealth visit, complete this form. If you have severe symptoms, please go directly to your nearest emergency room. It’s recommended you call the hospital beforehand so they may prepare properly for your arrival.
Most individuals who contract monkeypox are able to recover on their own within two to four weeks.