The Mpox Virus: What You Need to Know
The mpox virus is spreading rapidly across the United States and around the world. Numerous cases have already been confirmed in Pennsylvania. The following information will help answer your questions about the virus, including symptoms, transmission, treatment and vaccination.
What is mpox?
Mpox, also known as monkeypox, is a viral disease caused by infection with the mpox virus. Mpox illness often begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, a general feeling of discomfort, and exhaustion.
Within 1 to 3 days after fever occurs, patients typically develop a rash of raised fluid-filled bumps. Mpox is rarely fatal. Mpox was discovered in 1958 and the first human case was recorded in 1970.
Previously, almost all mpox cases in people outside of Africa were linked to international travel to countries where the disease commonly occurs or through imported animals.
What causes mpox?
Mpox is caused by the mpox virus, which is part of a group of other viruses that cause infections in humans, such as smallpox and cowpox.
What are the symptoms of mpox?
Mpox illness often begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, a general feeling of discomfort, and exhaustion.
Within 1 to 3 days after fever occurs, patients typically develop a rash of raised fluid-filled bumps. The bumps often appear on the face first, but sometimes initially on other parts of the body, especially the genital and perianal areas.
The bumps will change over time before crusting and falling off after approximately 2 to 4 weeks. Some individuals get a rash first followed by other symptoms; while others only experience a rash.
An mpox infection is usually mild and many patients are even asymptomatic.
The incubation period for mpox, which is the time from when a person has been exposed to the virus to when symptoms appear, is about 12 days, but it can range from 7 to 17 days. The incubation period can be as long as 21 days.
How long does mpox last?
Mpox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has completely healed with a new, healthy layer of skin. The illness typically lasts 2 to 4 weeks.
Is mpox fatal?
There have been no deaths reported in the United States due to the mpox virus to date.
Infections of mpox among people living in remote areas with minimal access to medical care, such as rural Central and West Africa, have reported fatalities in 1% to 10% of cases.
How do people get mpox?
Mpox spreads in different ways, often person-to-person through direct contact with an infected rash, scabs, or body fluids.
It also can be spread by air during prolonged, face-to-face contact (within a 6-foot radius for more than three hours) or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing or sex.
Mpox can also spread by touching items, like clothing, that had previously touched an infectious rash or body fluid.
It is also possible for people to get mpox from infected animals by being scratched or bitten, or by eating meat or using products from an infected animal.
Who is at risk of getting mpox?
Anyone who is in close contact with a person who is infected with mpox can get it and should take steps to protect themselves. However, mpox does not spread easily between people. Anyone who does not have mpox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others.
Most people who have mpox report having been in close physical contact with other people who have the virus.
Is there an increased risk for children or women who are pregnant?
Information on how mpox affects children and women who are pregnant is limited. Symptoms and treatment are the same for children and pregnant women as they are for other patients.
The CDC has developed specific information about mpox and children and it is available at: https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/clinicians/pediatric.html
The CDC has also developed specific information about mpox and women who are pregnant and it is available at: https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/clinicians/pregnancy.html
How do I get tested for mpox?
Patients must be evaluated by a healthcare provider to determine if their symptoms appear to be mpox and require testing.
Screening or testing for mpox is not available until you have been evaluated by a healthcare provider.
Several WellSpan care locations are able to evaluate symptoms and collect specimens for testing. Visit wellspan.org for a list of WellSpan locations where you can be evaluated by a healthcare provider and be tested if recommended.
Is there a treatment for mpox?
Most patients experience mild illness from mpox and do not require treatment. For more severe cases, an antiviral medication, called Tecovirimat, can be used to treat mpox. However, treatment is limited and is only available after consultation with public health officials.
Is there a vaccine for mpox?
There are two vaccines that protect against mpox, but they are not readily available. Vaccines are only provided by the CDC after consultation with the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
The vaccines are safe and effective in preventing mpox infection as well as to providing protection after being exposed to someone with mpox. People can be vaccinated up to 14 days after having been exposed to another person or animal infected with mpox.
Who can get a vaccine?
Vaccines for mpox are not readily available. Vaccines are only provided by the CDC after consultation with the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Doses are being limited to people who may be at risk of acquiring mpox or who might have severe outcomes if they become infected.
If I am eligible for mpox vaccine, how to do it get it?
Vaccines are limited to approvals from the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health and are not available otherwise.
What action should I take if I have been exposed to mpox?
If you have been in contact with the mpox virus, you should monitor your health and check your temperature twice daily.
If symptoms develop, you should immediately self-isolate and contact your healthcare provider for further guidance.
If you do not develop symptoms, you can continue to do your routine daily activities, such as going to work or school. However, you should not donate blood, cells, tissue, breast milk, semen, or organs while under symptom surveillance.
You should monitor for symptoms for 21 days from the last date of exposure.
Where can I learn more about mpox?
For more information about mpox, visit the CDC’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/response/2022/index.html.
The CDC also has a Frequently Asked Question page available at https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/faq.html.
Please contact your healthcare provider for specific clinical information.