Monkeypox: Basic Information

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious disease that is caused by the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is from the same family of viruses as the smallpox virus. It is also less severe and transmissible than smallpox. Monkeypox can spread from infected humans, animals, and materials contaminated with the virus.

Monkeypox virus is characterized by a new, unexplained rash and skin lesions. It is usually found in Central and West Africa and normally does not spread in the United States. Since May 2022, monkeypox has been spreading from person to person in countries where the virus is usually not found, including the United States.

Illustration of monkey pox virus

Anyone can develop and spread monkeypox after being exposed to the virus. Based on the current outbreak, certain populations are being affected by monkeypox more than others. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the virus is impacting some members of LGBTQ community, with a disproportionate impact among men who have sex with men, as well as transgender and nonbinary individuals.

Viruses don’t recognize sexual orientation or gender identity, but because the virus is spreading primarily through close intimate contact, we can expect it to spread faster in communities with smaller social networks. It is important for all Wisconsinites to be aware of the signs and symptoms of monkeypox. The Department of Health Services (DHS) encourages anyone who develops any symptoms to contact a healthcare provider, ask about testing, and stay away from others.

 Wisconsin has confirmed cases of orthopoxvirus, presumed to be monkeypox, in Wisconsin residents. View current case counts.

 


Monkeypox 101

 Causes and transmission

Monkeypox does not spread easily from person to person. People must have close, sustained contact with an infected person to get the virus. People usually become infected with monkeypox:

  • By having direct contact with the skin lesions or body fluids of an infected person,
  • Through sharing items, such as bedding or clothing of an infected person, or
  • Through prolonged exposure to an infected person's respiratory secretions.

Monkeypox can also be spread to people from animals through bites, scratches, preparation of meat or use of a product from an infected animal.

 Signs and symptoms

Monkeypox is typically characterized by a new, unexplained rash that develops into hard, round, fluid or pus-filled skin lesions. Other early symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Muscle aches
  • Chills

The monkeypox rash usually develops within one to three days after fever. However, some people may experience a rash or sores first, followed by other symptoms.

Some people may also only develop a rash.

Monkeypox symptoms images

Monkeypox symptom images

 Treatment

Most people who have monkeypox recover without needing treatment within two to four weeks. While there is no specific treatment for monkeypox, antiviral medications that have been used to treat smallpox can be used. People who have been exposed to someone with monkeypox may be eligible to receive a vaccine to prevent the onset of disease or reduce the severity of symptoms. DHS will work with healthcare providers to obtain vaccines and treatment when necessary.

 Prevention

If you were exposed to monkeypox, monitor for symptoms for 21 days after your date of last exposure. It is important to check your temperature two times per day during your monitoring period. If symptoms begin, contact a doctor immediately and isolate away from others.

You can continue daily activities, like going to work or school, if you do not develop any symptoms. If your partner has monkeypox, avoid sex or being intimate until all sores have healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox. Standard household cleaning products and disinfectants should be used to wash any surfaces and materials that have been touched by someone who has monkeypox, followed by handwashing. 

Since monkeypox is most often spread from person to person, contact tracing is also an important tool that can be used to help limit the spread of disease.

 Resources


Monkeypox FAQs

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness. The monkeypox virus is from the same family of viruses as the smallpox virus. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms but are less severe. It is also less transmissible than smallpox and rarely fatal. Since May 14, 2022, monkeypox has been spreading from person to person in countries where the virus is usually not found, including the United States.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Monkeypox is typically characterized by a new, unexplained rash that develops into characteristic hard, round, fluid- or pus-filled skin lesions. Other early symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache

The monkeypox rash develops within one to three days after fever. However, some people may experience a rash or sores first, followed by other symptoms. Some people may also only develop a rash.

Is monkeypox deadly?

The type of monkeypox virus currently spreading is rarely fatal. It is estimated that over 99% of people who become infected with this type of monkeypox virus will survive. However, people with a weakened immune system, history of eczema, people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and children under 8 years old may be at a higher risk for experiencing severe disease and death.

What should I do if I have symptoms?

It is important for anyone experiencing a new, unexplained rash to notify a doctor. If possible, call ahead before going to a health care facility and notify them that you are concerned about monkeypox. If you have monkeypox symptoms, talk with a healthcare provider, ask about getting tested for monkeypox, isolate at home, and avoid close physical contact until a health care provider can examine you.

If you need assistance finding a free or low-cost health care provider, you are encouraged to call 211 or visit https://211wisconsin.communityos.org/ for support.

What should I do if I test positive for monkeypox?

If you test positive for monkeypox, stay isolated away from others and avoid intimate contact (kissing, touching, any kind of sex) while you are sick. Stay home until any rash has fully resolved, the scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed.

How can I prevent monkeypox?

Most people with monkeypox report having prolonged close contact with someone with monkeypox. Monkeypox is unlikely to spread through the air over long distances because the virus is not known to linger in the air. To protect yourself from monkeypox, take the following actions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Ask your sexual partner(s) if they have a rash or other monkeypox related symptoms.
  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact, including sex and intimate contact, with someone who has a rash or other symptoms.
  • Consider how much close, skin-to-skin contact is likely to occur at the event you plan to attend.
  • Do not share objects like bedding, towels, clothing, or utensils with someone with monkeypox.

Is monkeypox contagious?

Monkeypox does not spread easily from person to person. People must have close sustained contact with an infected person to get the virus. Monkeypox can spread through:

  • Respiratory or oral secretions
  • Close physical contact
  • Touching sores or body fluids
  • Touching personal belongings that have had contact with sores.

If you are attending a large event or festival, consider how much close, personal, skin to skin contact is likely to occur to help prevent the spread of monkeypox. Monkeypox can also spread to people from animals through bites, scratches, preparation of meat, or use of a product from an infected animal.

What should I do if I had contact with someone who has monkeypox?

If you were exposed to monkeypox, monitor for symptoms for 21 days after your date of last exposure. It is important to check your temperature two times per day during your monitoring period. If symptoms begin, contact a doctor immediately and isolate away from others. You can continue daily activities, like going to work or school, if you do not develop any new symptoms.

If your partner has monkeypox, avoid sex or being intimate until all sores have healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. Remember to wash any bedding, towels, or clothing that have had contact with the infectious rash or body fluids. Standard household cleaning products and EPA-registered disinfectants should be used to wash any surfaces that have been touched by someone with monkeypox.

People who have been exposed to someone with monkeypox may be eligible to receive a vaccine to help prevent the onset of disease or reduce the severity of symptoms.  See “Is there a vaccine available?” below.

How is monkeypox treated?

Most people who have monkeypox recover without needing treatment within 2-4 weeks. While there is no specific treatment for monkeypox, antiviral medications that have been used to treat smallpox can also be used. People who have been exposed to someone with monkeypox may receive a vaccine depending on their level of exposure to prevent the onset of disease. DHS will work with doctors, local and Tribal health departments, and other health care providers to obtain vaccines and treatments when necessary.

Is there a vaccine available?

Two smallpox vaccines licensed by the FDA are available to prevent monkeypox: JYNNEOS, also known as Imvamune or Imvanex, and ACAM2000.

However, due to a limited vaccine supply, DHS is currently following the federal government’s recommendation to prioritize the JYNNEOS vaccine for individuals at the highest risk of infection.

In Wisconsin, vaccination is now recommended for people 18 years and older who had known exposure to someone with monkeypox and people with certain risk factors who are more likely to be exposed to the virus. This includes:

  • People who know that a sexual partner in the past 14 days was diagnosed with monkeypox.
  • People who attended an event or venue where there was known monkeypox exposure.
  • Gay men, bisexual men, trans men and women, any men who have sex with men, and gender non-conforming/non-binary individuals, who have had multiple sexual partners in the last 14 days.

Can my pet get monkeypox?

The CDC does not believe that monkeypox poses a high risk to pets. However, monkeypox is zoonotic, which means it can spread between animals and people. People with monkeypox should avoid contact with animals, including pets, domestic animals, and wildlife to prevent the spread of the virus. 

If you have pets, learn more about what do if you or someone in your home has monkeypox.

Clinical guidance and surveillance information

Find clinical guidance on testing, vaccine administration, reporting, and more on our monkeypox webpage for health professionals.


Questions about monkeypox? Contact us! Phone: 608-267-9003 | Fax: 608-261-497

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Last Revised: August 10, 2022