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Monkeypox is a contagious disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. At Atrium Health, we’re monitoring the current outbreak and reported cases of monkeypox in our region. Our experts are here to help you stay informed and get the care you need.

Call our 24/7 Help Line

If you need guidance about monkeypox, including help finding testing and treatment, call 704-468-8888.

Symptoms

The most common symptom of monkeypox is a rash that goes through several stages. It starts as flat spots and turns into sores that can look like pimples or blisters.

The rash may be painful or itchy. It can appear on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals or anus. Rectal pain can be a warning sign of monkeypox.

The virus can also cause flu-like symptoms that may begin a few days before the rash appears, including:
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

You may experience all or only a few of the symptoms of monkeypox. Symptoms typically begin within 3 weeks of exposure and can appear in any order.

Monkeypox is generally a mild disease, though severe cases can occur. Young children and people who are pregnant, have a weakened immune system, or have a history of atopic dermatitis or eczema may be at higher risk for severe illness.

Monkeypox is contagious from the time symptoms start until the rash has healed completely and new skin has formed. In most cases, the illness lasts 2-4 weeks.

Treatment

If you’re sick or were exposed to monkeypox and need testing or treatment, contact your healthcare provider or call our 24/7 Health Line at 704-468-8888. Avoid close contact with others until you’ve been cleared by a doctor.

Your doctor may start by ruling out other more common conditions that can cause similar symptoms. Then, a skin test can be used to diagnose monkeypox.

Many people fully recover from monkeypox on their own, without treatment. In some cases, over-the-counter and prescription medications can help manage symptoms. Your healthcare provider can give you care recommendations and, if needed, coordinate treatment for severe symptoms.

There are also vaccines that can help reduce the chance of infection and severity of symptoms in people who have been exposed or are at high risk of exposure to the virus. For more information about monkeypox vaccines, see our FAQ section.

Helpful resources

The spread of monkeypox is an evolving situation, and guidance may change. We’ll continue to share with our community as we learn more. For reliable information and updates, we recommend these local and national resources:

Frequently asked questions

Monkeypox spreads through close contact with an infected person’s skin lesions (rash or scabs), respiratory droplets or bodily fluids.

The virus primarily spreads through direct physical contact, like kissing, cuddling or sex with someone who is already infected. It can also spread by touching items that have the virus on them, like a blanket or cup used by someone who is sick with monkeypox, or through prolonged face-to-face interactions, which mainly happen when living with or providing close personal care for someone who has monkeypox.

You can reduce your risk of getting sick with monkeypox by:

  • Avoiding close, skin-to-skin contact with someone who has monkeypox or symptoms of the virus, such as a rash or flu-like symptoms
  • Avoiding contact with the personal belongings of someone who has monkeypox or symptoms of the virus, like bedding, clothing and towels
  • Talking to your sexual partners about any recent illnesses and any new or unexplained rashes on your body or your partner’s body
  • Wearing a mask and gloves if you’re caring for someone who has monkeypox or symptoms of the virus and can’t care for themselves
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

The CDC also provides guidance about social gatherings, safer sex and monkeypox.

If you’re concerned that you may have monkeypox, contact your healthcare provider or call 704-468-8888. You can also contact your local health department for guidance.

If you have a new or unexplained rash, sores or other symptoms, stay home, keep the rash covered and avoid sex or other intimate contact until you’ve been checked out by a healthcare provider.

Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and can order a test to diagnose monkeypox, if needed. They can also provide treatment recommendations.

If you’re exposed to monkeypox, monitor your health for 3 weeks after your last exposure. As long as you don’t have symptoms, you can continue your usual activities. Don’t donate blood, cells, tissue, breast milk, semen or organs during this 3-week period.

If you’re getting tested for monkeypox or have a confirmed case of the virus, you may be asked to isolate at home except to get medical care. Avoid contact with people or pets you live with as much as possible, and continue isolation until your rash has healed completely.

Quarantine and isolation guidance may change or differ depending on where you live. For the latest guidance, contact your local health department.

Currently, there are 2 vaccines that protect against monkeypox – JYNNEOS and ACAM2000. These vaccines can prevent monkeypox or lead to less severe illness if given soon after exposure.

At this time, supply is limited, and vaccination is only recommended for people who were recently exposed or who are at high risk of exposure to the virus.

If you have questions about these vaccines, talk to your healthcare provider. You can also visit the CDC’s website to learn more about monkeypox vaccination.

Eligibility for the monkeypox vaccine is decided by the government and is expected to expand as supply of the vaccine increases.

In NC, vaccines are currently offered to people age 18 or older who self-identify as high risk, including:

  • People who have been in close physical contact with someone diagnosed with monkeypox
  • Men who have sex with men, or transgender individuals, who have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days

If you need help deciding if the vaccine is right for you, contact your healthcare provider or call 704-468-8888.

Monkeypox vaccines are free and are offered based on availability, which is currently limited. Contact your local health department to get more information or request a vaccination appointment. Find a health department in NC or SC.

NC residents can also find information about vaccine eligibility and access in this NCDHHS monkeypox fact sheet (PDF).

If you need additional help, contact your healthcare provider or call 704-468-8888.

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