According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox is a "rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal." Visit the Georgia Department of Public Health's monkeypox page for details about virus spread in the state.
Monkeypox is spreading rapidly in Georgia. For a current count of confirmed cases across the United States, visit the CDC's case map.
Information about monkeypox in Georgia — including prevention, testing, and treatment — is available below.
Monkeypox spreads from person to person in several ways. These include:
- direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
- respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
- touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
- pregnant mothers can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta
Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. People who do not have monkeypox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others. At this time, it is not known if monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids.
High Risk Groups
Anyone can contract monkeypox. The current outbreak so far has been overwhelmingly among men who have sex with men, which is why this group is considered high risk at this time. Communities that are considered high risk may vary by location.
Children under 8 years of age, people who are pregnant or immunocompromised, and those with a history of atopic dermatitis or eczema may be at increased risk for severe outcomes from monkeypox.
High risk groups are considered a priority for vaccination. More information about vaccination can be found below.
To avoid contracting monkeypox:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle, or have sex with someone with monkeypox
- Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
If you are sick with monkeypox:
- Follow CDC’s Isolation and Prevention Practices for People with Monkeypox
- Remain isolated if you have a fever or respiratory symptoms, including sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough. Only go out to see a healthcare provider or for an emergency.
- If you need to leave isolation, you should cover the rash and wear a well-fitting mask
If you are sick with monkeypox it is important to isolate yourself. Follow the CDC's Isolation Practices for Monkeypox.
Signs & Symptoms
According to the CDC, symptoms of monkeypox can include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
- A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus
Learn more about the symptoms of monkeypox and the appearance of the monkeypox rash on the CDC's website.
Testing for monkeypox involves swabbing a lesion and sending the sample to a lab for testing. Tests are not yet available for patients who do not have lesions, but do have other symptoms of monkeypox.
If you begin to show symptoms of monkeypox, contact your healthcare provider to be tested. Urgent care centers and health clinics also may be able to test for monkeypox.
There are two vaccines available for prevention of monkeypox: JYNNEOS (also known as Imvamune or Imvanex) and ACAM2000. Both vaccines are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). JYNNEOS is a two-vaccine series with 28 days between doses.
The Georgia Department of Health (DPH) is distributing doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine to local health districts. The vaccine has been distributed upon request to health departments and for vaccination events in various counties. More doses of JYNNEOS will become available from the federal government as production ramps up.
DPH is following recommendations from the CDC and prioritizing monkeypox vaccine for people at high risk of infection. This includes:
- Close personal contacts of people with monkeypox
- Individuals who may have been exposed to monkeypox
- People who have increased risk of exposure to monkeypox, such as lab workers
There is no residency requirement.
How to Get Vaccinated
Each local public health district is responsible for administering its doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine. You must have an appointment and meet eligibility requirements to receive a vaccine. You can search for available appointments and register using DPH's scheduling tool or call the Vaccine Scheduling Resource Line at (888) 457-0186.
According to the CDC, there are no treatments specifically for monkeypox. However, antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent and treat monkeypox.
Antivirals, such as tecovirimat (TPOXX), may be recommended for people who are more likely to get severely ill, like patients with weakened immune systems.
Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you have symptoms of monkeypox.