What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus, an orthopox virus which belongs to the same group of viruses as smallpox. The virus causes a distinctive rash. Previously, the disease has been most commonly reported in people living in or traveling to certain central and west African countries. As of May 2022, the CDC has reported the disease in several countries that have not historically seen monkeypox cases. 

What are the symptoms? 

Symptoms of monkeypox usually start with fever, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness. Lymph nodes might become swollen. After a few days, a distinctive rash typically begins on the face and then spreads over other parts of the body. In the current 2022 outbreak, some patients have had oral, genital, or perianal (around the anus) lesions without fever or other symptoms. 

How is it spread?

People can be infected with monkeypox when they come into contact with the virus from an infected person, animal, or materials contaminated with the virus. The virus spreads from person to person through close contact. This includes direct contact with skin lesions or bodily fluids, or contact with contaminated clothing or linens. Spread can also occur through respiratory droplets during prolonged, face-to-face contact.

Who is at risk? 

Anyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, can get monkeypox if they have close contact with someone infected with the virus. Most, but not all, cases of monkeypox associated with the current 2022 outbreak have been identified in gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men (MSM). While it’s important to identify which communities are most impacted by a disease for prevention efforts, it is never okay to use transmission of a disease to stigmatize or hold biases against a community.

Who should get vaccinated? 

RHHD is offering vaccines as post-exposure prophylaxis to high- and some intermediate-risk close contacts of known lab test confirmed monkeypox cases to prevent onset of symptoms and reduce further transmission. 

RHHD is also vaccinating individuals who are at higher risk of monkeypox exposure and have not had contact with a known positive case. Individuals interested in getting a monkeypox vaccine should fill out this form online or call 804-205-3501. Because vaccine supply is limited, you are not guaranteed a vaccine by filling out this form. RHHD will contact you about receiving a vaccine in the future depending on your risk factors and available supply. 

Individuals who are considered higher risk and are encouraged to get vaccinated against monkeypox include: 

  • Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men and have had multiple or anonymous sexual partners; 
  • Transgender women and nonbinary persons assigned male at birth who have sex with men and have had multiple or anonymous sexual partners; 
  • Sex workers; 
  • Staff at establishments where sexual activity occurs; and 
  • People who attend sex-on-premises venues.


Click here to fill out the vaccine interest form!


What vaccines are available?

Two vaccines are available for prevention of monkeypox. These vaccines can be used before or after an exposure to reduce risk of developing monkeypox. ACAM2000 is an older vaccine originally developed for smallpox, but is also approved for monkeypox. JYNNEOS is a newer vaccine. ACAM2000 carries greater risk of certain serious side effects and cannot be provided to individuals who are immunocompromised or who have heart disease. Both vaccines are being used to meet the current demand.

What is being done in Virginia?

VDH is investigating any suspected cases and facilitating laboratory testing at the Virginia state laboratory and the CDC, as well as facilitating access to treatment for people with monkeypox. VDH also is conducting contact tracing and monitoring contacts for 21 days after exposure. Vaccines are being offered to high and intermediate risk contacts and to people who are at higher risk of monkeypox exposure and have not had contact with a known positive case.

Do you think you were exposed?
Know your risk level and what to do next.

High Risk

Unprotected contact with the skin, lesions, or bodily fluids from a person infected with monkeypox, including any kissing or sexual contact, as well as contact with contaminated materials (e.g. linens, clothing).  

Recommendation: Get post-exposure vaccination. VDH will work with you to monitor any symptom changes for 21 days after an exposure.  

Intermediate Risk

Being within six feet of a person with monkeypox for three hours or more without masks. 

Recommendation: VDH will work with you to determine if vaccination is needed, and to monitor for any symptom changes for 21 days after an exposure.

Low Risk

Being within six feet of someone with monkeypox without a mask for less than 3 hours. 

Recommendation: VDH will work with you to monitor for any symptom changes for 21 days after an exposure. Vaccination not recommended at this time. 

Learn more about the Virginia Department of Healths’ response to monkeypox here.


What else can I do to keep myself and others safe from monkeypox?

  • Know the symptoms and seek medical care if you experience any. Symptoms of monkeypox typically include a rash or lesions (fluid-filled spots) anywhere on the body, often on the face, arms, legs, or genitals. Other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion. For more information about symptoms, click here
  • If you are at higher risk of getting monkeypox, consider getting vaccinated. If you are someone who might be at higher risk of getting monkeypox, consider filling out the monkeypox vaccine interest form. Filling out the form doesn’t guarantee you a vaccine, add you to the list to potentially receive a vaccine in the future depending on your risk factors and the available supply.
  • Discuss monkeypox symptoms and STI history with sexual partners. Consider asking your partners if they have experienced any recent symptoms of monkeypox, have traveled to an area that has local monkeypox transmission, or have any symptoms of an STI. It's good practice to discuss these aspects of someone's health, including testing history, in order to protect you and your partner's health. Planned Parenthood has some tips about how to have that conversation. 
  • Know that if you’re named a contact to a known positive case, you’ll be contacted by VDH. VDH will call you to give you resources and to start monitoring your symptoms. Your information will still remain protected health information and not released to any other person.
  • If you don’t have a primary care provider, consider getting one. Finding a provider you trust now can help in case you think you might be sick or infected with a virus, including monkeypox. If you have insurance, your insurance can help you get connected to local care. You can also contact our call center at 804-205-3501 to learn about providers in our area.
  • Stay tuned for more information. Stay up to date on the latest monkeypox information and local resources by getting connected to your local health district. Consider signing up for RHHD’s newsletter or following us on social media.

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