Mass General Brigham Monkeypox General Information & Resources

August 11, 2022
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On August 4, 2022, US officials declared monkeypox a public health emergency. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a global health emergency on July 23, 2022. We understand that many patients may have questions. We want to provide you with information about monkeypox.

What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a viral infection. It causes a skin rash that can look like pimples or blisters. It may also cause flu-like symptoms like fever, exhaustion, and/or muscle aches.

It was first identified in the 1950s from a colony of sick monkeys in a research lab in Denmark. The first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since that time, outbreaks have occurred in West and Central Africa. Until the current outbreak, cases outside of that region were linked to travel to or contact with infected animals from West and Central Africa. The US had an outbreak in 2003 linked to Prairie Dogs. In 2021, there were two cases in the US linked to travel to Nigeria.

Is there currently an outbreak?
The 2022 outbreak was first identified in a cluster of cases found in the United Kingdom. The first case identified in the United States was reported on May 18, 2022. The case was identified at Massachusetts General Hospital. As of August 5, 2022, there have been 157 confirmed cases in Massachusetts and 15 in New Hampshire. According to the CDC, more than 88 countries have reported cases of monkeypox as of August 2022. There have been more than 27,000 confirmed cases worldwide. You can learn more about the global outbreak on the CDC map and case tracker.

How easily does monkeypox spread?
The monkeypox virus does not spread easily between people like COVID-19 or the flu. People who do not have symptoms are not considered infectious.

Monkeypox is spread through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact such as:

  • Direct contact with monkeypox rash or scabs from a person with monkeypox.
  • Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
  • Contact with fluids from the mouth, nose, throat, or lungs from a person with monkeypox.

Contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms that could be monkeypox.

What should I do if I think I’ve been exposed to someone with monkeypox?
Contact your healthcare provider if you think you’ve been exposed. You may be eligible for vaccination to reduce the risk of disease after an exposure if you live or work in Massachusetts and meet the current eligibility criteria. For information about vaccine access in New Hampshire, please check the New Hampshire Department of Health's website . Your provider will need to perform a risk and exposure assessment. They may refer you for vaccination if you are eligible.

Where can I find more information?
You can see the FAQs on the Mass General Brigham website. You can also see these other resources:

It is important that you have this information so you know how monkeypox could be spread, you are aware of the symptoms, and what to do if you develop symptoms. We are carefully monitoring the outbreak. We will keep you updated as more information becomes available.

Sincerely,

Tom Sequist, MD
Chief Medical Officer
Mass General Brigham