When the monkeypox virus began spreading worldwide in spring 2022, vaccines and treatments were unavailable to the general public.
As of September 2022, the vaccine still is unavailable to the general public. But people who’ve been exposed to monkeypox may be eligible for vaccination. And while there is no specific treatment for monkeypox, treatments for other diseases might help.
U.S. health officials declared monkeypox a federal health emergency in August 2022. So far, tens of thousands of people have gotten monkeypox in the U.S.
Here’s what to know about vaccines and treatment options.
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Is There a Monkeypox Vaccine?
There are two monkeypox vaccines: JYNNEOS (a two-dose vaccine) and ACAM2000 (a single-dose vaccine). JYNNEOS is the preferred vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), due to its safety profile.
The monkeypox vaccine is not available to the general public at this time.
The CDC recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to or are very likely to have been exposed to others contagious with monkeypox, or people more likely to get monkeypox. That includes:
- People identified as having close contact with someone with monkeypox.
- People who are aware that one of their sexual partners in the past two weeks has been diagnosed with monkeypox.
- People with multiple sexual partners, including individuals participating in sex work, in the past two weeks in an area with a known spread of monkeypox.
- Select laboratory workers, health care workers, or others whose jobs are likely to put them into contact with monkeypox may be eligible to receive the vaccine before exposure.
Vaccinations are available for gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men; transgender or gender-diverse persons who have sex with men; and women who have sex with men AND one of the following:
- Had multiple (two or more) or anonymous sex partners.
- May be at high risk for severe disease if exposed to monkeypox, such as individuals living with HIV or another immunocompromising condition.
- Are on HIV PrEP.
- Had any newly diagnosed STI in the past 12 months, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, or syphilis.
- Have recently (in the past 30 days) attended, or plan to attend in the next 30 days, any venue where anonymous sex or sex with multiple partners will occur (e.g., saunas, bathhouses, sex clubs, sex parties, or campgrounds).
- Had recent (in the past 30 days) partners with whom they had sexual or other intimate contact, or plan to meet partners with whom they will have sexual or other intimate contact in the next 30 days, through social media platforms (such as Grindr, Tinder or Scruff), or at venues such as clubs, raves, sex parties, saunas, campgrounds, etc.
- Are experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity.
- Have been determined to be at high risk by a health care provider or public health official.
What Should I Do If I’ve Been Exposed to Monkeypox?
If you believe you’ve been exposed to monkeypox, call your health care provider to see if you’re eligible for the vaccine. You should self-isolate until you can see a doctor. Do not go out if you’re sick and avoid close contact with others.
UPMC has a limited supply of the monkeypox vaccine and is offering it only to those who are eligible according to public health criteria. We are following guidance from the CDC, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and local health officials for providing vaccinations. We are currently giving the vaccine to people who have confirmed exposure to monkeypox and are at the greatest risk of spreading it to others.
Patients cannot directly schedule a monkeypox vaccine at this time at UPMC. But a UPMC physician can refer you for it if you’re eligible. If you have questions about monkeypox, contact your doctor or call 866-518-0334.
You also can call your local health or state health department for more information on vaccines. You can reach the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 1-877-724-3258.
What Is the Treatment for Monkeypox?
There are no specific treatments for monkeypox. The disease often is mild enough to not require treatment.
The most common monkeypox symptom is a rash that can be itchy and/or painful. Flu-like symptoms also are typical. In some cases, a rash involving the mouth, genitals, or anus may be serious enough to make eating or going to the bathroom difficult. In very rare cases, monkeypox may result in infection of the brain, or potentially death.
Monkeypox and smallpox are similar viruses, although monkeypox is less severe. Because of the viruses’ similarities, some smallpox treatments may work to treat monkeypox.
The CDC says treatment may be recommended for people who are at risk of severe illness from monkeypox. That includes people with compromised immune systems. The current treatment being used is the antiviral tecovirimat (TPOXX), which is given as a pill or intravenous medication. This medication is available only in coordination with public health agencies.
If you have symptoms of monkeypox, call your doctor to see if you qualify for testing and potential treatment.
How Long Does Monkeypox Last?
Monkeypox symptoms typically last for two to four weeks. You are contagious until your rash scabs over, the scabs fall off, and a new layer of skin forms.
If you have monkeypox, you should self-isolate until you are no longer contagious. Do not leave your house unless you’re visiting the doctor. Wear a facemask and cover your rash when you are around others.
UPMC is committed to providing updates on monkeypox as the situation in the United States continues to evolve. You also should follow sources like the CDC and your state and local health departments for information.
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.