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Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that, if left undetected and untreated, can cause severe illness, hospitalization and, rarely, death.

While risk of contracting the disease for the general public is low, it is important for the community to know how the disease is acquired, its symptoms, how to reduce personal risk, and to seek testing as soon as possible, especially for those who are immunocompromised and at high risk.

Know how monkeypox is spread

Monkeypox is spread through close physical contact between individuals. This includes:

  • Skin-to-skin contact with monkeypox sores or rashes; or skin contact with dressings, fabrics etc. which have come into contact with skin lesions.
  • Sexual activity with multiple, casual partners significantly increases risk of infection.
  • Exposure to respiratory droplets or oral fluids from someone with monkeypox, such as being within 3 feet of an infected person, especially if they are coughing, or are around them for a long period of time.
  • Through contact with objects or fabrics (e.g., clothing, bedding, towels) that have been used by someone with monkeypox.

Note that the disease is contagious from the onset of symptoms until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.  

Know the symptoms of monkeypox

Symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • Rashes, bumps, or blisters on or around the genitals or in other areas like your hands, feet, chest, or face which are not clearly due to another known cause.
  • Please note that this current strain of monkeypox has a rash that does not present as it has previously; internet searches for “monkeypox rashes” may look different; any suspicious new rashes, bumps or blisters should be examined by a health care provider.
  • Swollen lymph glands.
  • Suspicion of monkeypox is greater if flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, and fatigue are present as well. These symptoms may occur before or after the rash appears, or not at all.

Note that it may take 21 days from exposure until one develops signs of the infection.

Take steps to reduce your risk

Important facts and steps to take to reduce risk:

  • Avoid close face-to-face and skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a monkeypox-related rash or other symptoms.
  • Ask your sexual partner(s) whether they have a rash or other symptoms consistent with monkeypox and if so, delay sex until they are evaluated by a healthcare provider.
  • If you are exposed or experience symptoms, make sure to reach out to a health care provider and avoid having sexual contact until your health has been evaluated.
  • Avoid activities that increase exposure to Monkeypox, especially when traveling to a region, state, or country where monkeypox is present.
  • The NYS Department of Health reports that a vast majority of monkeypox cases have occurred within populations of men who have sex with other men, however, it has also been spread man to woman, and woman to woman and without sexual relations.
  • Refer to the CDC's guide to Safer Sex and Social Gatherings.

Anyone who is concerned about their risk or are concerned they may be experiencing symptoms, should contact their health care provider for a risk-assessment to determine the appropriate steps to take.


Testing and treatment

Treatments are available for those who meet criteria and are infected with monkeypox, including antiviral medication. A vaccine is used for those at high risk of infection who meet criteria.

  • Healthcare providers can test for MPX.

  • Testing includes swabbing a lesion and submitting to a commercial laboratory for analysis. 

  • Individuals will need to isolate while awaiting test results. 

  • If test is positive, close contacts will need to be identified in order to prevent the spread of monkeypox. TCHD will communicate with positive cases and notify close contacts. 

  • Anyone who does not currently have a health care provider or who is uninsured and seeking a local provider should call 2-1-1 (1-877-211-8667). 

  • There is a vaccine which protects against MPX, though it is in severely limited supply. Available vaccine is being prioritized for high-incidence areas and for confirmed high-risk close contacts. To date, the reported Tompkins County cases have had no local high-risk close contacts, so vaccine has not yet been offered to Tompkins County. Should Tompkins County identify high-risk close contacts, we would work with NYS DOH to obtain the vaccine. 

  • Treatments are available for those who meet criteria and are infected with monkeypox, including antiviral medication. A healthcare provider can prescribe antiviral medication.