In May 2022, a global outbreak of mpox (previously known as monkeypox), a rare viral disease caused by the mpox virus, was confirmed with a cluster of cases found in the United Kingdom. Since then, countries around the world have seen an uptick in mpox cases, including the United States. The first presumptive positive case of mpox in Johnson County, Kansas was announced on July 9.
While mpox cases are increasing across the country, the general population is currently at low risk of contracting the disease. Here is why:
- There is a vaccine for mpox. The vaccine is available to those who are identified as a close contact of a confirmed case of mpox or who meet certain criteria. If you have been exposed to someone with mpox and have not been contacted by JCDHE, or you meet the criteria for a mpox 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 mpox.
- Mpox can be treated with available antiviral medicines.
- Mpox does not spread easily between people. Mpox transmission typically requires skin-to-skin contact, direct contact with lesions, scabs or body fluids, or prolonged face-to-face contact.
Currently, a large proportion of the known mpox cases are among men who have sex with men. But any person, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, can acquire and spread mpox.
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 mpox and follow KDHE's guidelines on next steps, including infection control, testing, and reporting.
Those with a confirmed case of mpox 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 Mpox
If you have had close contact with someone with mpox or if you have a new or unexplained rash, sore or other mpox 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 mpox after screening and evaluation, the provider will swab a sore and send it to a lab for mpox testing. Mpox testing is widely available through commercial labs at most healthcare facilities.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does mpox spread?
Mpox does not spread easily between persons. Transmission requires close contact with someone with symptomatic mpox. 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 mpox 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 mpox?
If you are sick and have symptoms consistent with mpox, 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 have had contact with a person with confirmed or suspected mpox.
- Close or intimate in-person contact with individuals in a social network experiencing mpox 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 mpox 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 mpox.
- Avoid skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a rash or other mpox-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 mpox, stay at home, wear a mask around others and cover sores to prevent the spread of infection.
Where can I get the mpox vaccine?
Due to the limited number of mpox 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 mpox or who meet certain criteria. This may change in the future as more vaccine becomes available.
Is there more information available?
For more information about mpox, visit the CDC's website.