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There’s been a lot of chatter about monkeypox. Here’s a (relatively) quick summary of:

  • What’s going on?
  • Do you need to be concerned?
  • Do you need to take precautions?
  • What do you do if you think you have developed symptoms of monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a viral illness that has existed in parts of Africa for many, many years. In early 2022, a small number of cases began appearing in Europe and America. Since then, cases have appeared in almost every region of the globe.

There are two strains of monkeypox. In Africa, one strain has a mortality rate of 10% (1 in 10 infected people will die). The other strain has a mortality rate of 1% (1 in 100 will die). If there is any silver lining to this outbreak, the infections we are dealing with in the U.S. are caused by the less deadly strain. That being said, many cases of monkeypox cause painful blisters that can leave permanent scarring on the face and other areas of the body.

Although most of the 55 cases in Maryland have occurred near urban areas, a St. Mary’s County resident contracted monkeypox within the last week. The majority of infections across the U.S. have occurred in men who have had sexual contact with other men. Before you stop reading because you don’t think you’re at risk, please understand that monkeypox is spread primarily from skin-to-skin contact, and in some cases can be spread through respiratory transmission. It is not considered to be sexually transmitted, but researchers are still investigating this as a possible mode. The association with male-to-male transmission is thought to be due to close, physical contact between members of this community. It is of note that there have also been cases among women and among heterosexual men, so everyone has some degree of risk.

There is a vaccine that effectively prevents monkeypox infections, but it is currently in very limited supply. The current priority is to vaccinate people who are known to have been in close contact with an infected person. There will be enough doses for about 3,000 individuals. This may sound like a lot, but with a gradually increasing number of infections, some involving more than 10 close contacts, it is not clear at this time whether there will be a sufficient supply to last for the next 6-7 weeks.

Although it would be ideal to offer pre-exposure vaccination to those in higher-risk groups (primarily men who have sex with other men and female partners of this group), vaccine availability is limited. For those in higher-risk groups, we urge people to modify their activities to dramatically reduce the potential for exposure. The single most important act is to avoid new partners until people are vaccinated or the developing epidemic ends.

You can sign up on the State of Maryland's Pre-Registration form if you are interested in vaccination. Please note that signing up on the State of Maryland's pre-registration form is not an appointment, but a way for you to be contacted for a vaccine when vaccine supplies increase, and can be found here:

If you think you have been exposed please contact your healthcare provider's office. The Pre-Registration link is not for possible cases of Monkeypox.

Anyone who is concerned that they have blisters on their skin that can be the result of monkeypox should contact their personal healthcare provider for advice. Medical offices are able to collect a specimen to test for the infection. There is a 2-3 day delay between obtaining a specimen and receiving a result from the lab. Anyone who is tested should isolate themselves until they are notified of their result. A person with monkeypox will typically have sores on their skin for 2-4 weeks. They are contagious until all their sores have completely healed over.

This is an evolving situation. For those at higher risk, please take precautions. The Health Department will post updates as we get additional information.

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