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Monkeypox: What You Need to Know

August 23, 2022

As the monkeypox outbreak spreads across the United States, you may have a lot of questions and concerns. The following information will help you learn more about the disease and how to protect yourself and others.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a viral disease known for its blister-like rash. It’s part of the same family of viruses that causes smallpox, but monkeypox is rarely fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the disease can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact. The U.S. declared the outbreak a public health emergency on August 4, 2022.


Monkeypox symptoms include a skin rash that looks like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy. The rash might be followed by other flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, headache, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, and back pain.

How it spreads

Monkeypox spreads primarily through close, skin-to-skin contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or fluids. Close contact includes sexual contact, kissing, massage, and extended face-to-face contact with a person who has the disease. It can also spread in other ways, and is contagious from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed.

Prevention and vaccines

  • Protecting yourself
    To prevent getting monkeypox, avoid close contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox. Practice safe sex and avoid using items that a person with monkeypox has used, such as eating utensils, cups, clothing, bedding, and towels.

  • Protecting others
    If you have monkeypox, avoid close contact with others, including pets and other animals. Stay isolated and help reduce the spread by wearing a mask, washing your hands often, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

  • Getting a vaccine
    The monkeypox vaccine is the same vaccine that has been used to prevent smallpox for more than 200 years. The CDC recommends a monkeypox vaccine for people who have had close contact with someone who has the virus or multiple sexual partners in the last two weeks in areas with known monkeypox outbreaks. They also suggest that people who work in certain laboratory or healthcare jobs get the vaccine. Vaccines are covered at 100% and only available through your state and local health departments. On their websites, you can check availability and find a vaccine near you.


If you think you have monkeypox, contact your doctor or other healthcare professional. They’ll help determine if you should be tested for the virus. If testing is needed, your doctor will swab your rash and send it to a lab. Results will be available in a few days. Monkeypox is not a medical emergency, so you do not need to go to the emergency room.

Treatment and recovery

Most people with monkeypox recover fully within two to four weeks without the need for medical treatment. Some people, like those with a weakened immune system or who develop the rash in more sensitive areas of the body, may need treatment. While there is no specific monkeypox treatment, the antiviral medicine used to treat smallpox can be used to treat monkeypox infections. The risk of death is low. The CDC also has guidance on how to take care of yourself if you are sick.

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