Monkeypox (also known as hMPXV) is an illness caused by a virus related to, but different from, smallpox. The current worldwide outbreak includes thousands of cases in the U.S., including some in Oregon and Washington County.
Prior to this outbreak, nearly all outbreaks were associated with international travel or exposure to imported animals. During this outbreak many people are not travelers, but are exposed in their local community primarily by having close, skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Most people recover in 2-4 weeks without treatment. The sores caused by the virus can be very painful, causing serious complications in some people.
Children, pregnant people and people who are immunocompromised are at greater risk of severe disease from hMPXV. This includes people living with HIV whose disease is not fully treated (virally suppressed).
How it spreads
Monkeypox does not spread easily. It is most often spread by skin-to-skin contact with the rash/sores of an infected person. This can happen during sex or other prolonged close contact.
Click the image below to watch a four-minute video from the CDC: 5 things sexually active people need to know about monkeypox.
- Respiratory droplets, during extended face-to-face contact (more than 3 hours)
- Contact with bodily fluids
- Contact with fluid from the pox
- Contaminated bedding or clothing
The virus does not spread as easily as COVID-19 and scientists believe people can only spread the virus while they have symptoms. The current global outbreak has largely affected gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, but anyone can get the virus through close contact with someone who is infected. Here is one man's account of how the virus affected him in English and Spanish.
Early symptoms of the virus can include:
- swollen lymph nodes
- muscle aches and fatigue
Not everyone will have these symptoms. The length of time between being exposed and getting symptoms is usually from 6 to 13 days, but can take as long as 21 days after exposure.
Early symptoms are followed by a rash or sores. The rash usually starts as raised bumps that fill with fluid, turn into open sores, then scab over and disappear. This process usually takes 2-4 weeks. The rash can occur anywhere on the body, including face, hands, genital area and around the anus. Health officials say that in this outbreak many people are experiencing more mild flu-like symptoms, no fever and the rash is more frequently showing up on the genitals and anus. The sores can be very painful and can lead to complications.
If you have symptoms or were exposed:
If you develop symptoms of monkeypox, isolate yourself away from other people until you can be evaluated by a health care provider. If you have a rash, keep it covered and wear a mask around others. Make an appointment with your health care provider for evaluation and testing. Seek care even if you aren't sure you had contact with someone who has monkeypox. If you don't have a provider or are having trouble making an appointment, call us at 503-846-8851.
Steps to take if you think you may have been exposed:
Steps to take if a clinician recommends you get a test:
Preventing the spread
- Avoid sex or other intimate contact if you or your partner have new skin lesions, fever, swollen lymph nodes or otherwise suspect exposure to monkeypox. Condoms do not prevent the spread of the virus.
- Avoid contact with materials such as bedding that have been used by someone infected with monkeypox.
- Wash hands thoroughly if you have contact with someone with monkeypox.
- If you get symptoms, isolate yourself at home until you can connect with a health care provider.
Vaccines & treatment
Most people recover on their own in 2-4 weeks without treatment. Antiviral treatments are available for those who are sick. Vaccines are available for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and for some people at high risk of possible exposure. Right now, there is not enough vaccine for everyone at high risk. The vaccine is a 2-dose vaccine usually given four weeks apart. Oregon is focusing on getting as many people as possible their first dose and plans to give the second dose within three months. People who are immunocompromised will be contacted to get their second dose in four weeks.
If you want to find out if you are eligible and be put on the wait list, please call 503-988-8939. See these pages for more information:
Advice for businesses
The risk to most people remains low, but there are some social groups and employees who come into regular skin-to-skin contact with clients that may face a higher risk. If your business includes skin-to-skin or close personal contact with clients or items that their skin has touched, you can take extra steps to prevent the spread.
See our advice for business page to learn:
- which business might be at risk
- what employees should do if they've been exposed
- how to talk to clients
- cleaning recommendations
Prevention & education resources
Watch the Oregon Health Authority community listening session: July 21, 2022