What Is Monkeypox? Should You Worry? And How Much Do We Know About It?

There is one confirmed case of monkeypox and four suspected cases in the United States, according to the CDC.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.

What Is Monkeypox? Should You Worry? And How Much Do We Know About It?

What Is Monkeypox? Should You Worry? And How Much Do We Know About It?
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“I can report that there has been a request for release of the Jynneos vaccine from the National Stockpile for some of the high-risk contacts of some of the early patients, so that is actively happening right now,” Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology within the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, said Monday.

McQuiston said the United States has a “good stock” of vaccines because it has been preparing for the possibility of needing to use doses for smallpox. The two-dose Jynneos vaccine is licensed to prevent smallpox and specifically to prevent monkeypox.

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“Right now, we have over 1,000 doses of that available, and we expect that level to ramp up very quickly in the coming weeks as the company provides more doses to us,” McQuiston said. She stated how there is another smallpox vaccine licensed in the United States, ACAM2000, which could be used to prevent monkeypox and the country has more than 100 million doses.

“ACAM2000 is an older-generation smallpox vaccine that has some potential significant side effects with it. So a decision to use that widely would have to have some serious discussion behind it,” McQuiston said.

Overall, “we are hoping to maximize vaccine distribution to those that we know would benefit from it,” she said. “Those are people who’ve had contact with a known monkeypox patient, health care workers, very close personal contact, and those in particular who might be at high risk for severe disease.”

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The confirmed US monkeypox case is in a man in Massachusetts, and the four cases of orthopox are in men in New York, Florida, and Utah, the CDC says. Orthopox refers to pox viruses in general.

McQuiston said health care providers should assume that these orthopox cases are monkeypox. “It is likely that there are going to be additional cases reported in the United States,” she said.

What Is Monkeypox? Should You Worry? And How Much Do We Know About It?
Image via Shutterstock

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So how does it spread? According to the CDC’s chief medical officer of HIV prevention, it can be transmitted during sex.

“Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection in the typical sense, but it can be transmitted during sexual and intimate content, as well as with personal contact and shared bedding and clothing,” Dr. John Brooks said Monday. Anyone can get or spread monkeypox, but a “notable fraction of cases” in the latest global outbreak are happening among gay and bisexual men.

“Some groups may have a greater chance of exposure right now, but by no means is the current risk of exposure to monkeypox exclusively to the gay and bisexual community in the US,” Brooks said. “Anyone, anyone, can develop [and] spread monkeypox infection, but … many of those affected in the current global outbreak identified as gay and bisexual men.”

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