Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research. Despite being named “monkeypox”, the source of the disease remains unknown, however, African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) may harbor the virus and infect people.
The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970. Since then, monkeypox has been reported in people in several other central and western African countries. Prior to the 2022 outbreak, nearly all monkeypox cases in people outside of Africa were linked to international travel to countries where the disease commonly occurs, or through imported animals.
Monkeypox in the United States
Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are tracking multiple cases of monkeypox that have been reported in several countries that don’t normally report monkeypox, including the United States. As of July 5, 2022, the total confirmed monkeypox/orthopoxvirus cases in the U.S. was 560. CDC is working with state and local health officials to identify people who may have been in contact with individuals who have tested positive for monkeypox, so they can monitor their health.
The CDC has a U.S. Map and Case Count page which can be found here. Information about cases is updated Monday through Friday.
What You Should Do
Anyone with a rash that looks like monkeypox should talk to their healthcare provider, even if they don’t think they had contact with someone who has monkeypox. People who may be at higher risk might include but are not limited to those who:
- Had contact with someone who had a rash that looks like monkeypox or someone who was diagnosed with confirmed or probable monkeypox.
- Had skin-to-skin contact with someone in a social network experiencing monkeypox activity. This includes men who have sex with men who meet partners through an online website, digital application (“app”), or social event (e.g., a bar or party).
- Traveled outside the US to a country with confirmed cases of monkeypox or where monkeypox activity has been ongoing.
- Had contact with a dead or live wild animal or exotic pet that exists only in Africa or used a product derived from such animals (e.g., game meat, creams, lotions, powders, etc.).
Examples of Monkeypox Rash
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of monkeypox can include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.
The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.
Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.
Take the following steps to prevent getting monkeypox:
- Avoid close, skin to skin contact with the monkeypox rash.
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of person with monkeypox.
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox.
- Do not share eating utensils or cups.
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a sick person.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after contact with sick people.
- In Central and West Africa, avoid contact with animals that can spread monkeypox virus, usually rodents and primates. Also, avoid sick or dead animals, as well as bedding or other materials they have touched.
A person who is sick with monkeypox should isolate at home. If they have an active rash or other symptoms, they should be in a separate room or area from other family members and pets when possible.
For more information about monkeypox, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/index.html
National Vaccine Strategy
On June 28, 2022 the National Monkeypox Vaccine Strategy was released by the White House. Read the fact sheet here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Find the answer to your frequently asked questions here.