Monkeypox frequently asked questions

Last updated July 21, 2022

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General questions

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a virus. It is in the orthopox family of viruses, which also includes smallpox. Monkeypox is rare, but it can be serious for people who get sick.

What is the risk to the general public?

The risk to the general public is low.

Where has monkeypox been identified?

Recent cases of monkeypox have been identified in Europe, Australia, and North America, including Colorado. 

State epidemiologists are coordinating across Colorado and with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor the progression and spread of the virus and learn more about transmission. Coloradans can track Colorado’s monkeypox cases on our website.

How does monkeypox spread? 

Monkeypox can spread in different ways. It can spread from person to person when someone who has monkeypox has close contact with someone else. Close contact can mean physical contact with a sick person’s sores, bumps or lesions or through prolonged, face-to-face interactions with someone who is sick. Close contact includes sexual contact. Monkeypox can also spread through touching the bed linens or clothing of someone who is sick. Recent cases in the United States have been infected through person-to-person contact. Brief interactions without physical contact are unlikely to result in getting the virus.

It’s also possible for people to get monkeypox from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal. However, this has not happened with recent cases in the United States.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

For some people, monkeypox can feel like the flu at first.  Early symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and exhaustion. Most people get a rash or skin bumps one to three days after they first start feeling sick. This rash usually starts on the face and then spreads to the arms and legs. Sometimes, the rash may start in the genital area. Some people don’t feel any symptoms before they get a rash. Monkeypox can look like syphilis, herpes, blisters, or even acne. 

How long does illness from monkeypox last?

Most people recover from monkeypox within two to four weeks.

Is monkeypox dangerous?

Monkeypox can make you very sick, but most people recover fully. In most cases, monkeypox will resolve on its own without specific treatment after two to four weeks. The version of monkeypox spreading right now has a fatality rate of less than 1%. 

Are some people at higher risk for monkeypox?

Men who have sex with men and people who have recently traveled to areas with monkeypox cases are at higher risk for contracting monkeypox, based on recent data. Transgender people and gender-diverse people may also be more vulnerable in the context of the current outbreak. However, anyone can get monkeypox. The virus does not discriminate against any group.

What should I do if I think I may have monkeypox?

Anyone with symptoms of monkeypox should contact a health care provider as soon as possible. Avoid close contact with others. Wear a mask, cover any skin lesions or sores, and notify the provider before you arrive to seek care. Your provider may prescribe you antiviral treatment to help you recover.

Some providers offer testing for people who have symptoms of monkeypox. Visit CDPHE’s monkeypox webpage for more information about getting tested for monkeypox.

What should I do if I may have been exposed to someone with monkeypox?

If you think or know you have been exposed, contact a health care provider as soon as you can to ask about vaccination. Monkeypox vaccines can help keep you from getting sick if you get vaccinated within four days of exposure. If you get the vaccine between four and 14 days after exposure, it can help prevent severe illness.

Can monkeys transmit this virus?

The U.S. cases have occurred through human-to-human transmission. It is possible for the virus to spread through contact with infected animals. There have not been any animal cases of monkeypox in the United States since 2003. 

The virus is named monkeypox because the first known outbreak occurred in monkeys, but monkeys are not the typical species to spread the virus now. 

All cases in the United States in 2022 have been caused by person-to-person spread and not direct contact with animals. 

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Testing

Who should get tested for monkeypox?

Public health experts recommend monkeypox testing for people who have a new rash, lesions, or sores with pus and could have had close contact with someone who was infected.

How do health care providers test for monkeypox?

The test for monkeypox involves swabbing a skin lesion. Providers send the swab into a lab for testing to detect viruses in the orthopoxvirus genus.

How long does it take to get results from monkeypox testing?

Typically, you should receive your test result within 48 hours. You will receive your result from the same health care provider that performed your test. In the event that the provider cannot reach you, or if additional information is needed, public health may also reach out.

Where can I get tested for monkeypox?

Visit our main monkeypox webpage for an up-to-date list of providers that are able to collect samples for monkeypox testing. You can also reach out to your normal health care provider to see if they are able to collect samples for monkeypox testing.

What should I do with my monkeypox test results?

If you test positive, stay home, avoid contact with others, and cover any skin lesions or sores. Your provider or public health will give you instructions how to isolate away from other people until you feel better. Most people recover from monkeypox within two to four weeks. Antiviral medication is available for people who might develop severe illness from monkeypox. Talk to a health care provider if you have an underlying medical condition that you think might put you at increased risk for severe illness.

It is likely that public health will reach out to you to review isolation guidelines, provide  more information about your illness, and determine if you had any close contacts who might be eligible for vaccination.

If you test negative, contact a health care provider to discuss other possible causes of your symptoms.

Do I need to get a monkeypox test to get the monkeypox vaccine?

No. The monkeypox vaccine can be used to prevent or lessen symptoms of illness in people who were exposed to a case and receive the vaccine within 14 days of exposure. 

Currently, CDPHE is offering vaccinations to gay and bisexual men — and other men who have sex with men — if they have had multiple or anonymous sexual partners in the last 14 days. Anyone who believes they have been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox in the last 14 days is also eligible for the vaccine.

Vaccination strategies will initially focus on providing vaccines to people who are mostly likely to have recently been exposed to monkeypox to prevent them from getting sick. We are planning for multiple potential scenarios depending on our allocation of these extremely limited vaccines from the federal government.

People who believe they have been exposed to monkeypox and have symptoms should visit a health care provider to find out if they need to be tested.

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Vaccine

What kind of vaccine will I get if I’ve been exposed to monkeypox? 

If you are aged 18 years or older and meet vaccine eligibility criteria, you may be recommended to receive a fully FDA-approved vaccine called Jynneos. Jynneos is also available to people younger than 18 years through Investigational New Drug (IND) applications to the FDA.

Who can request a vaccine appointment? 

Eligible Coloradans include men aged 18 years and older who are gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men who have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days. Anyone who believes they have been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox in the last 14 days is also eligible for the vaccine. 

How do I request a vaccine appointment?

Coloradans can use the appointment request form to self-attest to their eligibility for the vaccine and request an appointment. 

How does the vaccine against monkeypox work?

Jynneos contains small amounts of a live, non-replicating virus called the Vaccinia virus. This virus is in the same family as monkeypox and smallpox. The vaccine teaches your body how to fight off the Vaccinia virus. Because this virus is very similar to monkeypox, your body will also be better able to fight off monkeypox after you have been vaccinated.

How effective is the vaccine?

Clinical studies suggest the Jynneos vaccine is at least 85% effective in preventing monkeypox.

How many doses of the vaccine will I need?

Right now, you will need one dose to get early protection from monkeypox. 
 
Jynneos is typically given in a two-dose series. Data from clinical trials shows that receiving only the first dose of Jynneos vaccine offers early protection from monkeypox. At this time, Colorado is focusing on providing first doses to as many high-risk individuals as possible. CDPHE will communicate with Coloradans who got first doses about when second doses are available and how to get them. There is no maximum allowable interval between the first and second doses of a Jynneos vaccine series, and the second dose can be safely administered after the recommended 28-day window.

How soon do I need to get the vaccine?
 
The sooner an exposed person gets the vaccine, the better. The vaccine can help keep you from getting sick at all if you receive it within four days of exposure to the monkeypox virus. If you get the vaccine between four and 14 days after exposure, it can help prevent severe illness but may not completely prevent infection.

Can I get the vaccine before I have been exposed? 

Right now, only some people are recommended to get the vaccine as a preventive measure before being exposed to the monkeypox virus. This includes some people who are likely to be exposed to the monkeypox virus at their job, such as certain laboratory workers and health care workers. At this time, most health care workers and laboratory workers are not recommended to receive the vaccine.

What are the side effects of the vaccine?

The most common side effects are pain, redness, swelling, hardness, and itching at the injection site. Side effects can also include soreness, headache, fatigue, nausea, and chills.

What vaccination strategy is CDPHE using?

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is adopting a monkeypox vaccination strategy that prioritizes administering first doses of Jynneos to as many high-risk individuals as possible, as opposed to reserving vaccines for second doses. Typically, Jynneos is given as a two-dose series, with the doses administered four weeks apart.

Why is CDPHE using this vaccination strategy?

The supply of Jynneos vaccine from the federal government remains extremely limited. This strategy will allow the state to open additional vaccination appointments for Coloradans at high risk at clinics being planned through the end of August. Prioritizing first doses will help provide the broadest protection possible against the spread of monkeypox in Colorado.

Does the vaccine still work if only one dose is given?

Yes. Data from clinical trials shows that receiving the first dose of Jynneos vaccine offers early protection from monkeypox.

Will people who got their first dose of Jynneos eventually be able to receive a second dose?

CDPHE plans to administer second doses of Jynneos as soon as the federal supply of vaccine allows. We will communicate with Coloradans who received first doses about when second doses are available and how to receive them.

Will people who received one dose of Jynneos from CDPHE be turned away if they try to sign up for a second appointment?

To ensure the widest vaccine availability, we ask that people who already received a first dose wait until additional vaccines are available from the federal government. Coloradans who self-attest to being immunocompromised are still eligible to receive a a second dose at four weeks to ensure they achieve maximum protection.

How long will CDPHE pursue a first dose strategy?

We will reevaluate this strategy as the federal vaccine supply allows.

Who is eligible for a first dose of Jynneos?

Eligible Coloradans include men aged 18 years and older who are gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men who have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days. Anyone who believes they have been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox in the last 14 days is also eligible for the vaccine.