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Epidemiologist and professor Amira Roess answers the most frequently asked questions about monkeypox.
In July 2022, the World Health Organization declared that the global monkeypox outbreak was a public health emergency of international concern, and in August 2022, monkeypox was declared a public health emergency in the United States. The monkeypox outbreak is still spreading at unacceptable levels globally and nationally. With colleges and schools back in session, monkeypox has a new opportunity to potentially infect more people.
Epidemiologist and professor at George Mason University Dr. Amira Roess specializes in infectious diseases, especially reducing the transmission of diseases that originate through animal-human contact, including monkeypox. Roess first studied monkeypox on while serving as an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer at the CDC in 2008.
Here Roess answers the most frequently asked questions about monkeypox and she is available for further comment.
Information about monkeypox is always evolving as researchers learn more. This information is accurate as of September 8, 2022.
Is Monkeypox a sexually transmitted infection (STI)? Can only men who have sex with men can get monkeypox?
No, monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted infection, meaning that sex is not the only way that you can get monkeypox. The virus spreads through close skin-to-skin close physical contact and through contact with bodily fluids from an infectious person. This type of contact is not limited to sexual activity.
Anyone can get monkeypox. In the United States, we're seeing that there are a lot of cases and transmission among men who have sex with men. Though we're not seeing significant transmission outside of that group, we are seeing cases in nonsexual contacts and in children. It is important to remember that anyone can get monkeypox. In the United States, we have seen over 30 cases in children
How does monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox spreads through close physical contact with someone who is infected, their bodily fluids, or contact with bedding, linens, towels, or similar material that has come in contact with the infected individual. Sex is one way to have close physical contact with someone, but the virus can also spread from close dancing, hugging, or any other contact that leads to close skin-to-skin contact.
How can I prevent the spread of monkeypox?
You can reduce your chances of catching or spreading monkeypox by reducing the number of individuals that you have close personal contact. Think through what exposures you might have in your everyday life. Have you had close physical contact with someone who is at risk of monkeypox or who has been recently exposed? If so consider getting the monkeypox vaccine.
If you get monkeypox, you can reduce the chance of spreading it by isolating and immediately notifying anyone you might have close contact with so that they can also take precautions (see below).
What are the signs and symptoms of monkeypox?
The symptoms can vary. Within three weeks of exposure, many people have a fever, headaches, and/or body aches. Often, they'll have swollen lymph nodes. Typically, individuals with monkeypox will also develop a rash that looks like pimples or pox lesions, and it is often found in the areas where that initial skin-to-skin contact or exposure may have occurred. View all the symptoms on the CDC website here.
How painful, dangerous, or deadly is monkeypox?
The strain of monkeypox that is circulating right now is not very deadly. Only a fraction of a percentage of people have died so far from the virus, and most of those deaths are reported to have been among people who have severe underlying immune compromising conditions. However, monkeypox can be very painful and there is concern about scarring from the rash.
What do I do if I’ve been exposed?
If you've already been exposed, immediately speak to a health care provider and get the vaccine as soon as you can. There is some confusion out there about the timing of the vaccine following an exposure. If you get that vaccine within two weeks of a known exposure you could significantly cut down the chances of you getting infected and of having a severe case of monkeypox. Also, let your close contacts know so they can get the vaccine. Together, we can cut down this cycle of transmission.
Can children get monkeypox?
Yes, children can get monkeypox. Children can get the virus the same way adults do—though contact with someone who has the virus. Currently, we are seeing an increase in cases among children.
To learn more monkeypox, read Dr. Roess’s other tip sheets below or visit the CDC’s monkeypox page:
What to Know About Monkeypox and the Potential for an Outbreak in the U.S. Updated May 23, 2022
Is Monkeypox the Next Pandemic? June 3, 2022
For more information, contact Michelle Thompson at 703-993-3485 or email@example.com.
Dr. Amira Roess specializes in infectious diseases, especially reducing the transmission of diseases that spread between animals and humans, including coronaviruses like MERS-CoV and SAR-CoV-2, the latter of which causes COVID-19. She studied monkeypox and other viruses when she served as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer at the CDC’s Poxvirus and Rabies Branch.
She is a professor of Global Health and Epidemiology at George Mason University's College of Health and Human Services, Department of Global and Community Health. Prior to joining academia, Dr. Roess served as the Science Director for the Pew Commission on Industrial Food Animal Production at Johns Hopkins, and was an Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer at the CDC. She has served as consultant for the United States Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and Westat Inc.
George Mason University, Virginia’s largest public research university, enrolls 39,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason has grown rapidly over the last half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity, and commitment to accessibility. In 2022, Mason celebrates 50 years as an independent institution. Learn more at http://www.gmu.edu.
About the College of Health and Human Services
The College of Health and Human Services prepares students to become leaders and to shape the public's health through academic excellence, research of consequence, community outreach, and interprofessional clinical practice. The College enrolls more than 1,900 undergraduate and 1,300 graduate students in its nationally-recognized offerings, including 6 undergraduate degrees, 13 graduate degrees, and 6 certificate programs. The college is transitioning to a college of public health in the near future. For more information, visit https://chhs.gmu.edu/.