You may have heard news of a multi-country monkeypox outbreak, but how much do you know about the current outbreak where you live? As of September 2022, there are nearly 700 confirmed monkeypox cases in Pennsylvania and Ohio. If you're one of our patients in PA or OH, this hits close to home. Human monkeypox is a similar condition to smallpox, caused by the same virus. The last endemic case of smallpox was in 1977 and it was declared eradicated in 1980. However, monkeypox still occurs sporadically in some affected countries. Now that confirmed cases of monkeypox have hit the USA, it's important to know the facts.
The first thing to remember is that treatment is possible and that vaccines are available to help you prevent the spread of this virus. At Central Outreach Wellness Center, our locations in Pittsburgh and Washington, PA are prepared to test and treat patients for monkeypox. If you think you may have been exposed to the virus, please contact us immediately.
Here are some of the most important facts to keep in mind about monkeypox:
What is Monkeypox Virus?
The monkeypox virus is a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus and is related to the smallpox virus. As a pox-like virus, it is characterized by the development of lesions or pocks on the skin.
The monkeypox virus was first identified in 1958 in wild-caught monkeys in the Copenhagen Zoo. The first human case was identified in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Since then, there have been outbreaks of monkeypox reported in several affected countries in Africa, including Nigeria, Central African Republic, Sudan, South Africa, and the Ivory Coast.
The current outbreak affecting the United States of America was first reported in mid-September 2018 in two states: Indiana and Illinois. As of September 2022, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed nearly 20,000 cases throughout the nation.
How Does Monkeypox Virus Infection Spread?
Human-to-human transmission of the monkeypox virus can occur through:
- Direct contact with an infected individual's lesions or respiratory fluid
- Contact with contaminated bedding, clothing, or other objects belonging to an infected person
- Close contact (within 6 feet) with an infected individual who is coughing or sneezing
- Exposure to aerosolized (aerosolized) secretions from an infected individual
It is important to note that sexual transmission of the monkeypox virus, especially within the first two weeks of the onset of symptoms, can occur through contact with an infected individual's respiratory secretions, semen, or other body fluids.
What Are the Monkeypox Symptoms to Look For?
The incubation period for monkeypox, or the time between exposure to the virus and the onset of symptoms, is typically between 7-14 days. However, it can range from 5-21 days.
The most common symptoms of monkeypox include:
- Flu-like symptoms, like fever and headache
- Muscle pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A rash that progresses from bumps to blisters and then scabs
The monkeypox rash typically starts on the face and then spreads to other parts of the body. It can affect any area of the skin but is most commonly seen on the chest, back and stomach. This is frequently the key for doctors to distinguish monkeypox from other rash illnesses.
Once lesions appear, they may progress as follows:
- Macules (1-2 days): A macular rash appears on the skin, starting on the face and spreading.
- Papules (1-2 days): Lesions have progressed to macular (flat) and papular (raised).
- Vesicles (1-2 days): Lesions become raised and filled with fluid.
- Pustules (5-7 days): Lesions become filled with opaque fluid, sharply raised, usually round, and firm to the touch.
- Scabs (7-14 days): Pustules have crusted and scabbed over before falling off.
Monkeypox and Hep C: What Are the Risks?
There is no evidence to suggest that the monkeypox virus can cause hepatitis C. However, as with any viral infection, there is always a risk of complications, especially in those with existing liver disease.
People with hepatitis C are advised to speak with their healthcare provider if they think they may have been exposed to the monkeypox virus. Because hep C compromises the immune system, those with the virus may be at a higher risk for developing serious complications from monkeypox, such as:
- Brain swelling (encephalitis)
- Kidney failure
- Severe skin infections
- In serious untreated cases, death
It's also important to note that many of the same communities who are disproportionately affected by hepatitis C are also being affected by monkeypox at higher rates. This includes communities of color, people who are incarcerated, people living in poverty, sex workers, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Is Monkeypox Treatment Available?
While there is no specific monkeypox treatment available at this time, patients in PA and OH deserve to know that there are options available to help those who have been infected. Because the monkeypox virus is similar to smallpox, doctors may use smallpox vaccines or antiviral treatment to help ease symptoms and speed up recovery.
In general, treatment for monkeypox focuses on relieving symptoms and supporting the immune system. This may include:
- Bed rest and plenty of fluids to help reduce fever and ease muscle aches
- Pain relief medication for fever and body aches
- Antibiotics to treat any secondary bacterial infections
Testing is also available to ensure rapid identification of monkeypox. The sooner monkeypox is diagnosed, the sooner patients can begin treatment and lessen their risk for serious complications.
If you think you or someone you know in PA or Ohio has been exposed to monkeypox, it's important to seek medical attention right away. Please contact a Central Outreach healthcare provider today to schedule an appointment. We can help get you the care and treatment you need without judgment or hassle.
Monkeypox Prevention: Staying Safe
Because smallpox and monkeypox are similar, the smallpox vaccine may offer some protection against monkeypox. At Central Outreach, we provide the following smallpox vaccines for those who have confirmed cases of exposure:
- ACAM2000: Administered as a live virus preparation that is inoculated into the skin by pricking the skin surface. Following a successful inoculation, a lesion will develop at the site of the vaccination. The virus growing at the site of this inoculation lesion can be spread to other parts of the body or even to other people, so individuals who receive vaccination with ACAM2000 must take precautions to prevent the spread of the vaccine virus.
- JYNNEOSTM: Administered as a live virus that is non-replicating. It is administered as two subcutaneous injections four weeks apart. There is no visible “take” and as a result, no risk for spread to other parts of the body or other people. People who receive JYNNEOS TM are not considered vaccinated until they receive both doses of the vaccine.
- Tecovirimat (ST-246): Central Outreach has partnered with the CDC and now is able to offer TPOXX(tecovirimat) for clients with presumed ocular risk, penile lesions, or peri-anal lesions. Studies indicate effectiveness in treating orthopoxvirus-induced disease.
Additional steps you can take to protect yourself and your community from monkeypox include:
- Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in close contact with someone who is sick or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
- Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throwing the tissue in the trash.
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that may be contaminated with monkeypox virus.
If you have any questions about monkeypox or how to protect yourself, please contact Central Outreach today. We're here to help you stay healthy and informed.
Where Can I Learn More About Monkeypox?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a Monkeypox Exposure Questionnaire in response to the 2022 monkeypox outbreak to assist in assessing patient exposures prior to illness onset. It contains seven sections, four of which can be adapted to fit specific situational needs.
Find some additional resources from trusted sources below:
World Health Organization (WHO):
If You Think You've Been Exposed, Call Central Outreach
At Central Outreach Wellness Center, which powers HepCMyWay, we pride ourselves on providing quality, compassionate care to all of our patients – regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
Our culturally-competent health care professionals provide a judgment-free space where everyone is welcome, and we will do everything we can to keep you safe and healthy. Contact us today.
When it comes to monkeypox, knowledge is power. Stay informed and stay safe.