top of page
Open Site Navigation

Monkeypox: Your Questions About the Monkeypox Outbreak Answered

by Dr. Michael McKelvey

1. What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a viral disease first identified in Africa in the 1970s. It is a cousin to other pox viruses, including the viruses that cause smallpox and chickenpox, and monkeypox produces a similar-looking rash.

While it has behaved as a relatively rare, endemic disease for decades, it has recently been found in countries throughout the world, including the United States. In August 2022, it was declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization.

2. Am I at risk for monkeypox?

Risk to the general public in central Ohio is extremely low. As of mid-August, Ohio has reported about 100 cases of monkeypox. While historical monkeypox infections could be spread by both close skin-to-skin contact and through the air in very close contact situations, this variant appears to exclusively be spreading through prolonged skin-to-skin contact. While not a sexually transmitted disease, the present cluster of cases is highly concentrated among men who have sex with men. The disease is not spread by short contact, such as a handshake.

3. What are monkeypox symptoms?

Classic monkeypox presented similar to other pox virus diseases with fever, swollen lymph nodes, and the pox rash, which begins with a red spot, evolving over several days into a red blister, then a pustule, then into a scab. The current outbreak has presented with fewer flu-like symptoms, and the rash is typically localized in the area of skin-to-skin exposure, often the genital area. The rash is typically quite painful and can last two to four weeks.

4. What should I do if I think I have monkeypox?

While still rare, it is expected that monkeypox will continue to spread throughout the population. You should be comfortable reaching out to your dermatologist with any new rash of unknown cause. In addition, Columbus Public Health is performing testing and appointments can be made by calling: 614-645-7774.

5. Is there a vaccine for monkeypox?

Yes, but it’s currently in short supply and is being rationed only to those at very high risk, particularly close contacts of known exposures to the disease. Columbus Public Health is coordinating local vaccinations.

6. Should I be worried?

Deaths in this recent outbreak appear to be very rare, however, the disease can be intensely painful for weeks on end. Outside of the current high risk groups, disease transmission to the general public is highly unlikely in its present form. COVID has taught us, however, that viruses adapt. We should remain vigilant and use all of our public health tools to limit the spread of the virus and prevent unnecessary suffering.