Mpox is a rare illness that causes rash, chills, and fever. It is caused by the monkeypox virus, which belongs to the same family of viruses as smallpox.
What is mpox?
Mpox is a reportable disease in Oklahoma as an unusual condition. Mpox is a rash that can look like pimples or blisters on the face, the inside of the mouth, hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus. Mpox infections are typically not severe; symptoms are usually similar to the flu with a rash and resolve within 2-4 weeks.
The general population is currently at low risk for contracting mpox, but careful surveillance of the outbreak by the public health and health care sectors is needed. Medical providers should be on alert for any patient who is experiencing a rash that is characteristic of mpox and follow CDC guidelines on next steps, including infection control, testing, and reporting.
According to CDC and other public health laboratory officials, current U.S. testing capacity is sufficient, but capacity is being added in commercial and public health laboratories in case it is needed.
The Department of Health and Human Services declared mpox a public health emergency in early August 2022. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it would not renew mpox, the virus formerly known as monkeypox, as a public health emergency after January 31, 2023, following a drop in cases.
WHO and CDC Rename Monkeypox Virus “Mpox”
On November 28, 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended renaming the monkeypox virus “mpox,” a change intended to mitigate racist and stigmatizing language associated with the original name. The WHO will use both names simultaneously for one year while “monkeypox” is phased out. Following the WHO’s announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it and other federal agencies would also adopt mpox moving forward. The CDC is also encouraging all partners to adopt mpox as the new terminology, especially in public communications. The virus was named human monkeypox prior to the WHO’s best practices in naming diseases, which states that names should minimize any unnecessary negative impacts on trade, travel, tourism, or animal welfare, and avoid causing offense to any social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups.
How is mpox spread?
Mpox spreads in different ways. The virus can spread from person-to-person through:
- direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
- respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
- touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
- pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta
Any person, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, can acquire and spread mpox. Currently, a large proportion of the known mpox cases are among men who have sex with men.
Traveling to a country currently experiencing an outbreak could increase your risk of contracting mpox. If you are planning international travel, check that country’s infection rate on the WHO website. If necessary, consult your doctor about getting a mpox vaccination before traveling, or if you have been exposed.
The spread of mpox is different than the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic:
- There is a vaccine for mpox, and can be effective if given shortly after potential exposure. The vaccine supply is currently limited to individuals who have been identified as potentially having high risk contact to an individual with mpox.
- Mpox can be treated with available antiviral medicines.
- While COVID-19 passed easily from person to person, mpox does not spread as easily between people. Mpox transmission typically requires skin-to-skin contact, direct contact with body fluids, or prolonged, close face-to-face contact.
Symptoms of mpox can include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals or anus.
The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.
What to do if you have symptoms or have been exposed
If you are concerned about having mpox symptoms or exposure, please contact the THD Epi-on-Call, 918-595-4399 or your healthcare provider for advice, testing and medical care. Recommendations for testing &/or vaccination will be provided based on the screening and assessment by THD epidemiologists. Self-isolate away from others to protect them from infection. Cover all possible blisters.
If you have been exposed, monitor yourself for symptoms for 21 days from exposure. If symptoms develop, self-isolate away from others and contact the THD Epi-on-Call or your healthcare provider for advice and testing.
Mpox Vaccination Eligibility
The CDC has provided criteria for eligibility of the JYNNEOS vaccine. The Tulsa Health Department, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), and partners are following this criteria.
Take the following steps to prevent getting mpox:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like mpox.
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with mpox.
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with mpox.
- Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with mpox.
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with mpox.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- In Central and West Africa, avoid contact with animals that can spread mpox virus, usually rodents and primates. Also, avoid sick or dead animals, as well as bedding or other materials they have touched.
If you are sick with mpox:
- Isolate at home
- If you have an active rash or other symptoms, stay in a separate room or area away from people or pets you live with, when possible.
The CDC recommends that condom use may help lower the risk of exposure. The Tulsa Health Department strives to provide accurate information as well as steps and resources individuals can take to reduce their risk of exposure.
- The mpox virus is spreading mostly through close, intimate contact with someone who has mpox.
- You can take steps to prevent getting mpox and lower your risk during sex. One suggestion is reducing as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. If the rash is confined to the genitals or anus, condoms may help; however, condoms alone are likely not enough to prevent mpox
Individuals may ask for a brown bag that contains free condoms at any of the THD clinic locations. Ending HIV Oklahoma also provides free condoms via mail order, you must be an Oklahoma resident age 13 and older. Condoms and lube will be sent in discreet packaging to the address provided.