Monkeypox by the Numbers: September 27, 2022

What Is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is an infectious disease that is spread by a virus. The monkeypox virus is in the same family as the virus that causes smallpox.4

According to the CDC, the signs and symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Feeling rundown or exhausted

Monkeypox usually causes a rash a few days after infection. The lesions can be on the face, the bottoms of the feet, the hands, the genitals, and other parts of the body.4

 Monkeypox: Common Signs and Symptoms

How Do You Get Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a contagious virus that is spread by close contact with other people. Experts think a person with monkeypox can only give it to someone else if they have symptoms. They will be able to spread the virus until the rash has fully healed (around 2 to 4 weeks).5

You can catch monkeypox from an infected person if you get their bodily or respiratory fluids on you. You may also pick up the virus if you touch something that an infected person touched (like bedding).

It’s less common, but:

  • People can catch monkeypox from an animal (e.g., hedgehogs, squirrels, rats, chinchillas, and primates)6
  • Pregnant people may pass the monkeypox virus to a fetus7

Can Kids Get Monkeypox?

Infants and children can get monkeypox. As of mid-September, the CDC has identified 27 cases of monkeypox in kids in the U.S. under the age of 16, including 12 cases in kids under the age of 5.

Researchers do not know for sure if monkeypox spreads through the air (aerosolized respiratory transmission, like how COVID spreads).8

However, if you are close to an infected person’s face for a long time, you may breathe in respiratory droplets that have the monkeypox virus in them.3

It’s also not known if domestic animals (e.g., pets, like dogs and cats) or livestock (e.g., farm animals like cows and pigs) can get monkeypox and spread it to humans.6

Is Monkeypox an STI?

Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is not yet known if the virus can be spread through semen or vaginal fluid.

However, because sexual activity often involves skin-to-skin contact and exchanging body fluids (e.g., saliva through kissing), it’s possible to catch monkeypox from a person you have sex with.9

Monkeypox and Men Who Have Sex With Men

The current monkeypox outbreak has affected many men who have sex with men (MSM). Most of the infections that have been reported so far have affected this group and they are considered at high risk for getting the virus.10

However, experts from the CDC emphasize that any person can get monkeypox, regardless of age, sex, race/ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation.11

 How Monkeypox Is Transmitted

Who Needs a Vaccine?

Currently, there are two vaccines that may offer protection against monkeypox. However, most people probably will not need to get a monkeypox vaccine.

In the U.S., there is a limited supply of monkeypox vaccines. The focus is on making sure that people who have been exposed or are at high risk for exposure can get vaccinated first.12

Is Monkeypox a Pandemic?

On June 23, 2022, the WHO declared the monkeypox outbreak a global public health emergency. The virus is currently spreading in countries that have not seen the disease before.13

Making this declaration helps make sure that countries can access the resources that they need, like vaccines, to help curb the spread of monkeypox.

However, two criteria that have to be met for an outbreak can be called a pandemic:

  1. The disease is spreading around the world and
  2. The number of cases is high enough that it is an epidemic.14

As of July, public health experts are not sure that the monkeypox outbreak clearly meets both criteria. Investigators are watching the situation very closely and will update as they learn more about how the virus is spreading.

Monkeypox Global Outbreak Stats

According to the CDC, 65,415 monkeypox cases have been reported globally in 106 countries since January 1, 2022.

Of those cases, 64,835 cases have been identified in 99 countries that have not reported monkeypox cases before.1

The U.S. has reported the highest number of monkeypox cases, followed by Brazil with 7,205, and Spain with 7,083.

Is Monkeypox Going to Be Like COVID?

Public health experts do not think that monkeypox outbreak will be like the COVID-19 pandemic.

One reason is that it’s not as easy to catch monkeypox as it is to catch COVID. For example, you can breathe in the virus that causes COVID, while monkeypox is mostly spread by direct contact with bodily fluids.7

However, public health experts still want people who are at risk of being exposed to monkeypox to take precautions. In some situations, that might include wearing a face mask just to be safe (for example, if they are around someone who has monkeypox).5

One thing that everyone can do to protect themselves from monkeypox and many other infectious diseases is to properly and frequently wash their hands.

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