Answering your questions about Monkeypox with virus present in NJ

Monkeypox is spreading quickly in the United States. As more people become infected and testing increases, the number of cases is shooting upward. Health officials expect it to keep growing for several weeks.

Every American should take monkeypox seriously, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said Thursday as he declared a public health emergency in the United States. The virus causes a rash that can be extremely painful and interfere with daily activities. Health officials want to contain the virus before it becomes endemic.

With vaccines in short supply, appointments are filling up quickly. But this is not like the COVID pandemic: monkeypox is rarely fatal, and there is a vaccine and treatment.

Governors in three states with the most cases – New York, California and Illinois – have declared public health emergencies. New Jersey Gov. Phil Muphy has not.

New Jersey's first patient with the disease tested positive on June 18. Since then, 188 people have been diagnosed. That’s an eighth of the number of cases recorded in New York City.

Here’s what you need to know about the disease and how it spreads.

How many cases of monkeypox are there in the US?

There are 6,617 cases of monkeypox in the United States as of Wednesday, Aug. 3.

First case came in June:First probable monkeypox case detected in NJ

New York had the highest number of cases, with 1,666, followed by California with 826.

New Jersey has 188 cases, as of Thursday, Aug. 4.

Is monkeypox an epidemic?

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently calls monkeypox in the United States an outbreak, not an epidemic. The World Health Organization also calls it an outbreak. While both terms refer to a sudden rise in a disease, epidemics affect more people than outbreaks.

What does monkeypox do to humans?

Monkeypox is a virus that causes a rash that appears as pimples or blisters on the face, hands, feet, chest, genitals, anus or other body parts. It can be very itchy and painful and interfere with daily activities, depending on its location. Sores in the anus or urethra can make it hard to go to the bathroom.

The rash goes through different stages as the pustules crust over, the scabs fall off and new skin appears. Other symptoms are similar to the flu and can include fever, headache, muscle aches and backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and coughs or sniffles.

The illness usually lasts two to four weeks. The rash can leave scars on the eye, mouth, anus or urethra. The long-term health effects of the virus are not known at this time.

What does monkeypox look like?

Examples of monkeypox rashes.
Examples of monkeypox rashes.

How does monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox can spread in many ways:

  • Having skin-to-skin contact with an infected person's rash or scabs or the liquid in the blisters

  • Touching bedding, towels or clothing that has been in contact with the infectious rash

  • From respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex

  • Pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetuses through the placenta

What causes monkeypox?

Monkeypox is caused by a virus in the orthopox family, which also includes smallpox.

Can monkeypox be cured?

There are no specific treatments for monkeypox, but treatments developed for smallpox are believed to be effective against monkeypox. That includes an antiviral medication known as tecovirimat (TPOXX), which may be recommended for people who are more likely to get severely ill, such as patients with weakened immune systems.

What are the first signs of monkeypox?

Symptoms usually appear one to two weeks after a person becomes infected, but may not appear for three weeks. Sometimes people develop the rash first, and then other symptoms. Some people only develop the rash.

How long is monkeypox contagious?

Monkeypox is contagious until the rash has completely healed. That means the blisters have hardened over, fallen off, and new skin has appeared, a process that usually takes two to four weeks. During that period, infected people should stay isolated.

Is monkeypox deadly?

The type of monkeypox currently spreading around the world is rarely fatal. The CDC says over 99% of people who get this form of the disease are likely to survive.

Those at the highest risk of severe illness or death include:

  • People with weakened immune systems

  • Young children

  • People with a history of eczema

  • People who are pregnant or breastfeeding

This article originally appeared on Monkeypox in NJ: Your questions, answered