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Monkeypox: What you need to know

What is monkeypox?


Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox. It is also not related to COVID-19 and is much harder to transmit than COVID-19.

The current risk of getting monkeypox is very low for the general public, but it's still good for everyone to know the facts about the symptoms, prevention and what to do if you get sick.  

Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal.  While not everyone needs a vaccine, vaccines and treatments are already available across the state. Most patients experience mild illness and require no treatment. Monkeypox can be spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. 

Due to increasing cases of monkeypox in Allegheny county, Allies is now offering both monkeypox testing and monkeypox vaccination. If you come in contact with someone who may have or has monkeypox, or if you believe that you have symptoms that could be monkeypox, please contact our office to discuss testing options.

See if you're eligible for vaccination

Who is eligible for the monkeypox vaccine?

Allies currently is following the vaccine eligibility guidelines from the CDC and PA Department of Health to distribute the monkeypox vaccine.

The monkeypox vaccine is available for individuals who have experienced a high-risk exposure in the past 14 days to someone who was diagnosed with monkeypox or for individuals who experienced a high likelihood of exposure. The vaccine may prevent disease if given within four days of exposure to the virus. Vaccine eligibility will be expanded as more becomes available.   

People who are currently prioritized to be vaccinated in Allegheny County (based on Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines) include:  

  • Individuals who had direct physical contact to someone diagnosed with monkeypox 
  • Individuals who had a sex partner in the past 2 weeks who has symptoms of monkeypox 
  • Individuals who participated in activities where multiple cases of monkeypox occurred
  • Individuals who exchange sex for money or goods 
  • Gay, bisexual, men who have sex with men, transgender, gender non-conforming, or gender non-binary individuals who had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the past 2 weeks and report any of the following: 
    • Met their partner through an app or social venue (examples: rave, bath house, sauna)
    • Were recently diagnosed with a sexually transmitted illness or think they may have been recently exposed to one 
    • Take HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) 
    • Have eczema  
    • have multiple (2+) or anonymous sex partners
    • may be at high risk for severe disease if exposed to monkeypox, such as individuals living with HIV or another immunocompromising condition
    • are on HIV PrEP
    • have had any newly diagnosed STI in the past 12 months, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis
    • have recently (i.e. in the past 30 days) attended or plan to attend any venue where anonymous sex or sex with multiple partners will occur (e.g. saunas, bathhouses, sex clubs, sex parties, campgrounds) in the next 30 days
    • have met recent (i.e. in the past 30 days) partners with whom they had sexual or other intimate contact, or plan to meet partners with whom they will have sexual or other intimate contact in the in the next 30 days through social media platforms (such as Grindr, Tinder or Scruff), or at venues such as clubs, raves, sex parties, saunas, campgrounds etc.
    • are experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity
    • has been determined to be at high risk by a healthcare provider or public health official

See if you're eligible for vaccination

How can I prevent monkeypox?

Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease and does not spread easily between people. However, anyone who has extremely close personal contact — mostly skin-to-skin — including direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluid from a person with monkeypox, can get it and should take steps to protect themselves. 

Take the following steps to prevent getting monkeypox: 

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like pimples or blisters. 
  • Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox. 
  • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox. 
  • Do not handle or touch the unwashed bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox. 
  • 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. 
  • Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox. 
  • If you have symptoms or test positive, isolate yourself until the rash heals to avoid transmitting monkeypox to others.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

​According to the CDC, symptoms of monkeypox can include: 

  • Fever 
  • Headache 
  • Muscle aches and backache 
  • Swollen lymph nodes 
  • Chills 
  • Exhaustion 
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough) 
  • A rash that may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) but could also be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth. 
  • The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing in 2 to 4 weeks. 
  • The rash can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.

You may experience all or only a few symptoms. If you are experiencing symptoms or believe you have been exposed to monkeypox, please call Allies at 412-345-7456 to make an appointment with one of our medical providers.

Request an Appointment

Where can I learn more about monkeypox?

Allies is working with partners at the city and county level to address monkeypox in Allegheny County. We also are following guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Information on this page courtesy of the Allegheny County Health Department, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.