Monkeypox cases are on the rise across the United States amid an unprecedented global outbreak.
As the virus spreads through U.S. communities, many wonder what monkeypox is, how seriously it should be taken and what treatments are available.
What is Monkeypox?
The monkeypox virus comes from the same family of viruses as smallpox. The two viruses present similar symptoms, including fever, headaches, muscle aches, chills, exhaustion and lesions that begin on one site and spread across the body. Monkeypox is usually milder than smallpox and may also cause swollen lymph nodes, according to the CDC.
Infections typically last two to four weeks and although other strains of the virus have had a fatality rate up to 10%, the current outbreak is rarely lethal.
The virus spreads through prolonged close contact with monkeypox sores, contaminated surfaces or bodily fluids, including respiratory droplets.
Current Monkeypox Outbreak
U.S. & World
There have been monkeypox outbreaks around the world, predominantly in Africa, since the virus’ discovery in 1970. But this is the first time clusters of cases have appeared simultaneously in five World Health Organization regions, with over 3,000 cases reported in the first half of 2022.
This global monkeypox outbreak has prompted plans to rename the virus, as the name implies geographic ties to Africa that are inaccurate and "discriminatory and stigmatizing," according to WHO officials.
The CDC reported that this outbreak involves a high number of cases in men who have sex with men, but health officials stress that anyone can contract the virus.
WHO recently declared monkeypox a global health emergency, given the unprecedented global spread of this outbreak.
Although the current monkeypox outbreak originated in the United Kingdom in early May, it quickly spread to the U.S., which now has more confirmed cases than any other country.
The first case of monkeypox in the U.S. was reported in Massachusetts on May 18. Now, there are confirmed monkeypox cases in all but four states.
As of July 26, the NBC staff reports have confirmed 4,235 monkeypox cases in the U.S. this year. This number far surpasses the two monkeypox cases documented in the U.S. last year, both of which were the result of international travel.
Monkeypox Vaccine Availability
There are two FDA-approved vaccines available to individuals exposed to monkeypox. After some monkeypox hotspots reported vaccine shortages, the Biden administration announced a plan to disseminate 296,000 doses in the next few weeks, prioritizing jurisdictions with high case rates and an already vulnerable population.