The ongoing outbreak of monkeypox, a viral disease spread through close personal contact, has raised many questions.
Our health system is a key partner in responding to the outbreak, and we are committed to providing the answers as they become clear. Katie Taylor, MD, medical director of infection prevention at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and assistant professor of clinical medicine at LSU, shares what we know so far.
What Are Monkeypox Symptoms?
- Early flu-like symptoms of monkeypox can include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion
- A rash appears at the same time or within one to five days after fever
- The rash can affect the genitals, extremities, trunk and/or face
- Rash is often blistering, or pimple-like and may be itchy
- Illness usually lasts two to four weeks
How Does Monkeypox Spread?
Monkeypox can spread through direct contact with monkeypox rash, sores or scabs; contact with objects, clothing, bedding, towels or surfaces used by someone with monkeypox; and respiratory droplets or bodily fluids from a person with monkeypox.
What Should I Do If I Have Monkeypox Symptoms or May Have Been Exposed?
People who think they may have been exposed to monkeypox or who have symptoms of monkeypox should consult with a healthcare provider. Our providers offer the convenience and safety of online visits, and you can connect with one of our providers here.
If you have a new rash or other monkeypox symptoms, avoid close contact—including intimate contact—with others until you see a healthcare provider. Rashes on the body should be covered with long sleeves or pants to avoid touching other people.
What Is My Risk of Monkeypox Exposure?
At this time, the risk of monkeypox to the general public is believed to be low. Monkeypox does not spread easily to people without close contact.
Anyone can catch monkeypox. The virus doesn’t care about your gender or sexual orientation. That said, currently, many cases have been among men who have sex with men. However, pregnant women, small children, and people with weakened immune systems are at risk for severe forms of monkeypox if acquired.
What Happens If I Have Monkeypox?
If you are diagnosed with monkeypox, you should avoid others until your symptoms have gone away and the rash has healed completely. This includes:
- Avoid sex or being intimate with anyone until all your sores have healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed.
- Avoid crowds.
- Avoid contact with animals including pets, other domestic animals and wildlife.
- Wear a mask and cover any rashes on your body with long sleeves or pants to avoid touching other people. If rashes can’t be easily covered, stay away from other people and pets as much as possible.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
- Wash surfaces and materials that you have touched while you had symptoms, including bedding, towels, clothing, and surfaces such as door handles or countertops. Standard household cleaning and disinfecting products may be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Do People Who Had Close Contact with a Monkeypox Patient Have to Quarantine?
Close contacts of monkeypox cases should self-monitor for the development of symptoms for 21 days after their last exposure and should avoid close physical contact with young children, pregnant people and others with weak immune systems. They do not have to quarantine at home for that time. However, if symptoms develop, they should isolate themselves and call a healthcare provider.
How Can I Get Vaccinated Against Monkeypox?
The vaccine is currently being administered only to people known to have had close contact with someone infected with monkeypox, known exposures and those with certain risk factors. Visit the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to learn more about transmission, prevention, symptoms and eligibility for vaccination, testing and treatment. In Louisiana, visit the Louisiana Department of Health website, and in Mississippi, visit the Mississippi Department of Health website for more information.