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What You Need to Know About Monkeypox

Woman wearing a face mask looking away as a healthcare provider cleans her upper arm to prepare for a vaccination.

August 12, 2022

Across the United States, thousands have been infected with monkeypox. The spread has been labeled an outbreak and that naturally sparks public concern. Learn more about who is at risk and how we protect ourselves, our community members and our loved ones.

How does monkeypox spread?

It is important to understand that viruses are not choosy. They simply seek a host. That’s true of monkeypox, just like any other virus. To help stop the spread, we must first remove the stigma around monkeypox. Anyone is susceptible – regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

What’s clear is that monkeypox is contracted and spreads through skin-to-skin contact. Identifying and minimizing high-risk behaviors and situations is the best defense against contracting disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), actions that increase risk of contracting monkeypox include:

  • Close contact with a person or persons diagnosed with monkeypox, or with a person or persons with a similar-appearing rash.
  • Close or intimate in-person contact with others in a social network experiencing monkeypox infections. Social networks can include people met through bars, parties, websites or apps.
  • Sexual intercourse or intimate activity with multiple partners in areas with known occurrences of monkeypox.
  • Travel outside the United States to a country with confirmed cases of monkeypox or where monkeypox is endemic within 21 days of illness onset.
  • Occupational exposure to monkeypox or other orthopoxviruses, such as among laboratory workers performing testing or some public health workers. In these instances, proper use of personal protective equipment will help reduce risk.

How can I lower my risk of infection?

As with any infectious disease, you can practice the pillars of infection prevention and control: Wash your hands, avoid touching your eyes, mouth and face, and avoid contact with others when you are sick. To lower your risk of contracting monkeypox, avoid prolonged physical contact, contact with respiratory secretions and contact with objects or fabrics used by someone with monkeypox.

Is a monkeypox vaccine available?

The University of Kansas Health System has received a limited number of vaccine doses in Kansas City. The health system is administering vaccines to patients who meet eligibility criteria. At this time, the CDC recommends vaccination for:

  • People who know that a sex partner in the past 14 days received a monkeypox diagnosis. 
  • People who have had multiple sex partners in the past 14 days in an area with known monkeypox. 
  • People who report any of the following in the past 14 days: 
    • Group sex or sex with multiple partners. 
    • Sex at a commercial sex venue or in association with an event, venue or defined geographic area where monkeypox transmission has been reported.

We are committed to high-quality care for all. If you are a current health system patient and believe you meet any of the eligibility qualifications, reach out to your primary care physician or provider (phone, text or MyChart message) for more information.

We must work together to stop the stigma associated with this illness and put health first. We strongly encourage those who are high risk or concerned to speak openly with their healthcare providers.

Frequently asked questions about monkeypox

  • It is a disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. It is part of the virus family that includes smallpox. It is rarely fatal and is not related to chickenpox.

  • Current data suggests that widespread community transmission of monkeypox has disproportionately affected individuals who identify as gay or bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

    It is important to remember that anyone can get monkeypox. Viruses do not discriminate. Monkeypox is spread through close contact.

  • Yes. If you are in close contact with a person with monkeypox, it is possible to contract the virus. It is spread primarily through skin-to-skin contact. You should avoid prolonged physical contact, contact with respiratory secretions and contact with objects or fabrics used by someone with monkeypox.

  • Monkeypox is painful and can cause scars but is rarely fatal.

  • At this time, limited vaccine doses are being prioritized for patients at highest risk. We are following eligibility guidelines from the CDC. If you believe you are eligible, contact your primary care physician or provider.

  • The vaccine is safe for those who have cancer or are immunosuppressed. You must still meet the eligibility requirements outlined by the CDC to receive the vaccine while availability remains limited.

  • The health system has limited doses available for current patients who meet the vaccination criteria of the CDC. If you are an established health system patient and believe you qualify, reach out to your primary care physician or provider.

    If you are not a current health system patient, contact your local health department for guidance. 

    This is a rapidly evolving situation. We will continue to provide updates as we have them.

We have a limited supply of monkeypox vaccine. See who's eligible and watch how the shot is given.

Allen Greiner, MD, MPH:

We believe people who have had sex with an anonymous partner in the last two to three to four weeks should get it, people who have had multiple sexual partners in the last two to three to four weeks, people who have had sexually transmitted infections in the last two to three to four weeks.

It's being given intradermally, so it's a very short, small needle that goes halfway through your layer of skin, not all the way through that layer of skin. And then the vaccine's pushed in there, and it makes a little bubble, or what we call a wheel in the skin.

You need to get two doses of this, a JYNNEOS vaccine. So you need to get a first dose, and then a second dose 28 days later, approximately 28 days later. So it's very similar to the Pfizer COVID vaccine.

You'll have a little pain and burning when you get it. Again, it's not too bad, but you could expect to have some soreness, redness, maybe a little swelling in the days after that injection.

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