Monkeypox FAQs


Note – For additional clinical information on monkeypox, please visit UChicago Medicine’s FAQ

General Monkeypox Information

  • According to the CDC and the WHO, Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus (MPV). The symptoms of monkeypox can be painful and persist for weeks, but it is rarely fatal. Prior to the 2022 outbreak, monkeypox circulated regularly (was endemic) in several central and western African countries. Previously, almost all monkeypox cases in people outside of Africa were linked to international travel. Monkeypox refers to the disease caused by the monkeypox virus (MPV).

    Although the CDC notes that monkeypox was discovered in 1958 when the disease emerged in monkeys kept for research, monkeys are not considered to be a significant reservoir of the virus, and more descriptive names for the disease are being considered. We currently use the term monkeypox in order to avoid confusion and to convey important medical information for the widest possible public audience. We will adapt our usage if a consensus emerges for a change in terminology.

    In 2022, the CDC began tracking monkeypox in several countries that don’t normally report monkeypox, including the United States. MPV is spreading mostly through close, skin to skin or intimate contact with someone who has monkeypox.

  • People with monkeypox get a rash that may be located on or near the genitals, hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.


    • The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
    • The rash can initially look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.

    Many people with monkeypox describe feeling generally ill for a few days before the rash appears but others have no prodromal symptoms. Typical symptoms include:


    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Swollen lymph nodes
    • Exhaustion
    • Muscle aches and backache
    • Headache
    • Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)

    The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks and individuals with monkeypox are considered contagious until all lesions have scabbed over and the scabs have fallen off leaving behind new, healthy skin.

    Visit the CDC website for more information, including photos of the monkeypox rash.


  • The monkeypox virus spreads mostly through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact with someone who has monkeypox. This can include direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or bodily fluids from someone with monkeypox; or by touching objects, fabrics (such as clothing, bedding, or towels) or surfaces they have used; or through contact with respiratory secretions. Having your clothed body make contact with covered monkeypox lesions on another person is considered minimal to no risk. Individuals who live with monkeypox patients but don’t have close skin-to-skin contact with them and people who work or sit near monkeypox patients are at low risk for monkeypox. Sharing personal items such as sheets, towels, drinks, or utensils increases the risk of getting monkeypox. Kissing and having other intimate contact increases the risk even more. When fabric items like clothing, sheets, and towels are contaminated and allowed to dry, shaking them out can aerosolize monkeypox, making it possible to catch monkeypox even without close contact, but this is uncommon and unlikely.

  • According to medical experts at UChicago Medicine, the risk of being infected with monkeypox through casual contact is low.

  • Antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent MPV infection if exposures are identified quickly. For this reason, those who have monkeypox should cooperate with contact tracing to make sure their friends and family can get vaccine if needed. If you think you have been exposed to monkeypox, you should reach your healthcare provider or the student care center right away to see if vaccine can help you avoid getting sick.

    Most monkeypox cases resolve on their own with only supportive treatment like pain medication, fluids, and antibiotics if any of the lesions get superinfected by bacteria. Very few individuals need to be hospitalized and death is extremely uncommon (less than 1%). Some individuals who are immunocompromised or those with more serious infection (lesions on mucous membranes or in the eye, for example) can get antiviral treatment with TPOXX (tecovirimat) or another antiviral medication. If you have symptoms of monkeypox, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider right away in order to get tested and treated if necessary.

  • The CDC recommends individuals:


    • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox
    • Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom.

    Learn more about how you can lower your risk of getting monkeypox during sex or at a social gathering.



    Testing/vaccination/treatment

    • Those with symptoms of monkeypox should get tested through their healthcare provider. Currently, the only way to test for monkeypox is by collecting a sample from the rash. Nearly 100% of monkeypox patients develop rash eventually. If you’ve had a high-risk exposure to monkeypox and now have symptoms consistent with early monkeypox but no rash yet, you should contact your healthcare provider right away. In the meantime, wear a mask and try to stay home and away from others. Don’t have sex or other intimate contact until your healthcare provider says you don’t have monkeypox.

    • UChicago Student Wellness or your healthcare provider can help arrange a test for you. Currently, only individuals with potential monkeypox rash lesions are eligible for testing. Please call ahead to schedule a test; you should not go to an emergency department for the purpose of getting tested unless you are so sick you otherwise need ER treatment. You can also schedule a test through urgent care centers or sexual health clinics. While waiting for your appointment, avoid contact with others if possible. Wear a mask and cover any rash with clothing or bandages when you go to your appointment.
    • According to the CDC, two vaccines may be used for the prevention of monkeypox virus infection:


      1. JYNNEOS (also known as Imvamune or Imvanex), licensed (or approved) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the prevention of Monkeypox virus infection
      2. ACAM2000, licensed (or approved) by FDA for use against smallpox and made available for use against monkeypox under an Expanded Access Investigational New Drug application.

      In the United States, there is currently a limited supply of JYNNEOS, although more is expected in the coming weeks and months. A promising new dosing strategy is being used to stretch the thin supply. There is a larger supply of ACAM2000, but this vaccine should not be used in people who have certain health conditions or people who have contacts with those conditions, such as a weakened immune system, skin conditions like eczema or other exfoliative skin conditions, or pregnancy. This makes ACAM2000 a less good choice for use on a college campus.


    • According to guidelines updated on August 16, 2022 by the Chicago Department of Public Health, the eligibility for vaccination includes those living in Chicago and Illinois including students enrolled in Chicago’s universities/colleges, who meet one of the following criteria AND have not previously been infected with MPV:


      • Anyone who has had close contacts (e.g., household members with close physical contact or intimate partners) with someone diagnosed with MPV regardless of sex, gender, or sexual orientation.
      • OR
      • Sexually active gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, and transgender persons

      Note that eligibility may change over time; please continue to consult the CDPH for the latest guidelines.

       



    • The CDPH recommends that you first contact your healthcare provider. You can also visit the CDPH website for healthcare providers that have received doses of vaccine for those who meet eligibility criteria.

    • Yes. Additional supply is expected in the coming weeks and months.

    • UChicago Student Wellness clinicians are working closely with colleagues at UChicago Medicine to arrange for testing, treatment, and vaccination for monkeypox. Students with symptoms or questions around monkeypox are encouraged to contact Student Wellness.

    • You can find treatment by contacting your healthcare provider.


    University Protocols

    • Yes, the University is conducting contact tracing for monkeypox.

      A top priority for University contact tracers is to maintain the confidentiality of infected individuals, and to limit information about a patient’s identity to a small number of University personnel for purposes of contact tracing, medical treatment, isolation housing, or for public health reasons. Contact tracers will not send broad notifications; only people whose exposure to an infected individual meets risk thresholds defined by public health experts will be contacted.

      Cooperating with contact tracing is the best way to ensure that contacts who are at high risk for the disease can get needed vaccines and monitoring with the least amount of personal disclosure. The CDC does not recommend that contacts quarantine or stay home unless they develop symptoms of monkeypox.


    • You should promptly contact your healthcare provider and confidentially inform University contact tracers by contacting mpvreport@uchicago.edu. A top priority is to maintain the confidentiality of infected individuals, and to limit information about any patient’s identity to a small number of University personnel for purposes of contact tracing, medical treatment, isolation housing, or for public health reasons. Working with the contact tracing team is the best way to make sure that any close contacts are notified and get help and vaccines.


    • Yes. Students living on campus who are infected with monkeypox will be provided with isolation housing in the Stony Island Residence Hall.

      Our priority is to enable students to have a safe stay in isolation housing, while keeping contact with others to a minimum.

      If moving to isolation housing, Housing and Residence Life will contact you with instructions.

    • The monkeypox virus spreads mostly through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact with someone who has monkeypox. This can include direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or bodily fluids from someone with monkeypox; or by touching objects, fabrics (such as clothing, bedding, or towels) or surfaces they have used; or through contact with respiratory secretions.

      While non-sexual household contacts don’t often get monkeypox, it is possible to spread monkeypox in the household especially as the rash develops over time. This risk is much lower if you don’t have to share sleeping quarters with someone who has monkeypox. For more information, see the CDC’s recommendations on isolation and infection control for monkeypox.

    • Those who test positive for monkeypox and are living off-campus are advised to isolate in their residences and avoid contact with housemates. Students sharing a living space with someone who has monkeypox can do a lot to reduce their risk. For example, the individual with monkeypox should stay in their own room as much as possible and wear a mask and cover their rash when out of the room. For more information, see the CDC’s recommendations on isolation and infection control for monkeypox.

      The University’s contact tracing team will be able to provide specific guidance on isolation, including conditions for release from isolation. Individuals’ medical clinicians will be able to provide specific guidance on treatment. Students being tested or treated by UChicago Student Wellness will be provided with medical advice on symptom monitoring and treatment, as necessary.

    • We want to help all members of our community stay healthy. While anyone can get monkeypox, the CDC has found that the current outbreak is more prevalent among some populations, including gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM). In addition to individualized care through UChicago Student Wellness and resources available through the Chicago Department of Public Health, including recommendations for vaccination and for lowering the risk of MPV transmission through sex, the LGBTQ Student Life and Center for Identity + Inclusion teams are always available to provide support and make connections. We want everyone at UChicago to be confident in seeking care.