Monkeypox

Monkeypox virus viewed under a microscope, purple and grey cells

In May 2022, a global outbreak of monkeypox–a rare viral disease caused by the monkeypox virus–was confirmed with a cluster of cases found in the United Kingdom. Since then, countries around the world have seen an uptick in monkeypox cases, including the United States. The first presumptive positive case of monkeypox in Johnson County, Kansas was announced on July 9.

While monkeypox cases are increasing across the country, the general population is currently at low risk of contracting the disease, and the spread of monkeypox is different from the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • There is a vaccine for monkeypox. In Kansas, the vaccine is only available to those who are identified as a close contact of a confirmed case of monkeypox or who meet certain criteria.
  • Monkeypox can be treated with available antiviral medicines.
  • While COVID-19 passed easily from person to person, monkeypox does not spread as easily between people. Monkeypox transmission typically requires skin-to-skin contact, direct contact with lesions, scabs or body fluids, or prolonged face-to-face contact.
Four examples of people with rashes on their hands, fingers and backs

Currently, a large proportion of the known monkeypox cases are among men who have sex with men. But any person, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, can acquire and spread monkeypox.

Traveling to a country currently experiencing an outbreak could increase your risk of contracting monkeypox. If you are planning international travel, check that country’s infection rate on the CDC website. If necessary, consult your doctor about getting a monkeypox vaccination before traveling, or if you have been exposed. 

According to CDC and other public health laboratory officials, current U.S. testing capacity is sufficient, but capacity is being added in commercial and public health laboratories in case it is needed.

Medical providers should be on alert for any patient who is experiencing a rash that is characteristic of monkeypox and follow KDHE's guidelines on next steps, including infection control, testing, and reporting.

Those with a confirmed case of monkeypox can anonymously notify their partners in a safe and secure way through text message or email using this free service from TellYourPartner.org.

Testing for Monkeypox

If you have had close contact with someone with monkeypox or if you have a new or unexplained rash, sore or other monkeypox symptoms, avoid close contact with others and call your health care provider or a local urgent care clinic for further evaluation and testing.

If a health care provider suspects monkeypox after screening and evaluation, the provider will swab a sore and send it to a lab for monkeypox testing. Monkeypox testing is widely available through commercial labs at most healthcare facilities. If you have additional questions, call JCDHE at 913-826-1200.

Monkeypox Vaccination

Due to the low supply of vaccine currently available, monkeypox vaccination is being recommended for a limited number of people.

JCDHE is vaccinating people who have been recently exposed to monkeypox. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) will reach out to individuals who have been identified (through case investigation) as a contact of someone who has monkeypox. KDHE will work with JCDHE to get these individuals vaccinated.

Vaccination is also available to residents who meet certain criteria. During the current outbreak, the primary method of transmission is via close intimate contact or sexual contact. Although anyone can get monkeypox, the population most affected right now is men who have sex with men and those who have had multiple sex partners in the last 14 days. These groups will be prioritized for vaccination. Call your health care provider or an urgent care clinic to see if you are eligible for vaccination and if they have vaccine available.

If you have been exposed to someone with monkeypox and have not been contacted by JCDHE, or you meet the criteria for a monkeypox vaccination, call 913-826-1200. Please provide the details of your exposure (or potential exposure), including dates and types of contact. You cannot get vaccinated if you already have symptoms of monkeypox.

7 Questions on Monkeypox Vaccines with Dr. Daskalakis

Frequently Asked Questions

When did Johnson County get its first case of monkeypox?

On July 9, the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced a single presumptive monkeypox case in an adult male Johnson County, Kansas resident.

What does it mean to have a presumptive positive test?

A case is considered presumptive positive until it is confirmed by the CDC. Once the CDC receives the specimen, it usually takes 24-48 hours to receive confirmation. 

How does monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox does not spread easily between persons. Transmission requires close contact with someone with symptomatic monkeypox. Person-to-person spread occurs with prolonged close contact or with direct contact with body fluids or contact with contaminated materials such as clothing or linens. This virus has not shown the ability to spread rapidly in the general population. Based on the information currently available, the risk to the Johnson County public appears to be very low.

How serious is monkeypox and what are the symptoms?

It is a potentially serious illness. It typically begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, and swelling of the lymph nodes. After a few days, a specific type of rash appears, often starting on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body. Symptoms generally appear seven to 14 days after exposure and, for most people, clear up within two to four weeks. Some people can have severe illness and die. As with many viral illnesses, treatment mainly involves supportive care and relief of symptoms.

What should someone do if they suspect they have monkeypox?

If you are sick and have symptoms consistent with monkeypox, avoid close contact with others and contact your health care provider for further evaluation and testing, especially if you are in one of the following groups:

  • Those who traveled during the month before their symptoms began to areas where monkeypox cases have been reported, 
  • Those who have had contact with a person with confirmed or suspected monkeypox.
  • Close or intimate in-person contact with individuals in a social network experiencing monkeypox activity including meeting partners through an online website or digital app.

If you need to seek care, call your health care provider first. Let them know you are concerned about possible monkeypox infection so they can take precautions to ensure that others are not exposed. The health care provider will notify JCDHE.

How are you educating the community about the signs, symptoms and prevention of the virus?

JCDHE is taking an active approach to provide accurate, timely information to the community via the Johnson County Government website, social media and conducting interviews with local media as news becomes available. JCDHE staff is available to answer questions from the public during regular business hours at 913-826-1200 or via email at [email protected].

What advice do you have for those people in your at-risk categories, to limit their exposure?

  • Stay informed. Follow reputable sources of health information, including JCDHE, KDHE and the CDC
  • Ask your sexual partners whether they have a rash or other symptoms consistent with monkeypox.
  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a rash or other monkeypox-related symptoms.
  • Call (do not visit) your health care provider if you have symptoms or have been exposed. Provide information about symptoms, travel history and exposures.
  • If you have symptoms of monkeypox, stay at home, wear a mask around others and cover sores to prevent the spread of infection.

Where can I get the monkeypox vaccine?

Due to the limited number of monkeypox vaccines currently available, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is only vaccinating those who have been identified as a close contact of a confirmed case of monkeypox or who meet certain criteria. This may change in the future as more vaccine becomes available.

Is there more information available?