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August 15, 2022

Monkeypox: What You Need to Know

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If you believe you have monkeypox or have been exposed to monkeypox, call 311 immediately to speak with the Kansas City Health Department about vaccination, testing, and treatment. 

On Thursday, August 4, 2022, the United States declared monkeypox a public health emergency. As we recover from the aftermath of COVID-19, many people have questions about the severity of this new virus and what precautions should be taken. KC CARE Health Center and the Kansas City Health Department would like you know that we are here to provide answers and do everything we can to ensure the health of all Kansas Citians. 

Click here to join a waiting list for the monkeypox vaccine.

What is monkeypox? 

Monkeypox is a virus in the same family as smallpox. It causes similar symptoms, though monkeypox is usually much less severe. The virus is most common in Central and Western Africa, although outbreaks have now been reported in over 70 countries across all continents except Antarctica. 

How does monkeypox spread? 

The monkeypox virus can infect humans by entering through broken skin, the respiratory system, or the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth. While this means that monkeypox can be transmitted through sexual contact, it is not a sexually transmitted infection. Monkeypox can be transmitted through any form of close contact with a person who has the virus. Monkeypox can also be transmitted through surfaces, such as sharing towels or bedsheets with someone who has the virus. 

What are the symptoms of monkeypox? 

Symptoms usually begin five to 21 days after exposure. Early symptoms are similar to the flu, including headache, muscle pain, fever, and fatigue. Several days after the onset of a fever, lesions will begin to appear. Lesions begin as small flat spots, then become bumps filled with clear fluid that will turn yellow before bursting and scabbing over. Lesions most often begin on the face, and frequently affect the hands, feet, mouth, genitals, and eyes. Occasionally lesions begin on the groin or genitals, and can resemble a STI like herpes. Some people who have monkeypox never experience any symptoms. 

How long does monkeypox last? 

Lesions typically go away in about 10 days, but if you are infected you may feel unwell for up to a month. 

What are the lasting effects of monkeypox? 

Monkeypox is rarely fatal. Lesions caused by monkeypox frequently leave pale scars that get darker with time. People with monkeypox face an increased risk of acquiring secondary infections, like pneumonia. Lesions in the eyes can lead to infection which damages vision or causes blindness. 

Does monkeypox affect gay men differently? 

No. Anyone, regardless of gender or sexuality, can be infected with monkeypox. Cases of monkeypox in the United States are disproportionately affecting men who have sex with men. It is believed that is due to behavior such as attending crowded bars or dance clubs, where close contact is difficult to avoid. Anyone who believes they have been exposed to monkeypox can acquire the virus and should contact their local health department immediately. 

Can I get vaccinated against monkeypox? 

Soon. KC CARE and other local healthcare providers will have vaccines within the next few days. Click here to join a waiting list for the monkeypox vaccine and select KC CARE as your preferred vaccination site. By giving vaccines to people after they have been exposed, but before symptoms begin, this can prevent the onset of symptoms and therefore prevent the virus from transmitting any further.

What can I do to avoid acquiring monkeypox? 

First, avoid contact with anyone who has monkeypox or who you believe has recently been exposed to monkeypox. Avoid crowded environments where it is difficult to prevent skin-to-skin contact, such as dance clubs. Avoid touching contaminated surfaces and wash your hands often. Viruses like monkeypox can survive for weeks on materials like towels or bedsheets, so make sure to wash items like this as often as possible. Wearing mask can help prevent you from inhaling respiratory secretions, such as if someone sneezes near you. It is also best to limit the number of people you kiss and have sexual contact with. 

What should I do if I think I have monkeypox, or if I have been in contact with someone who has monkeypox? 

Call the Kansas City Health Department at 311 immediately to schedule an exam. If you do not meet the criteria to be tested for monkeypox, the following commercial labs are currently offering testing: 

  • Labcorp 
  • Quest Diagnostics 
  • Mayo Clinic 
  • Sonic Healthcare 
  • Aegis Sciences