If you're a member of the LGBTQ+ community living in Pennsylvania or Ohio, you may have heard about the multi-country monkeypox outbreak, including a confirmed current outbreak in these two states. As of September 2022, there are nearly 700 confirmed monkeypox cases in PA and OH combined.
This severe disease is similar to smallpox, and it can cause serious illness with long-term effects. But even though human monkeypox is a continuous threat, many people feel that public information surrounding the monkeypox virus is lacking. So, what is monkeypox? How does it affect the LGBTQ+ community? And what can you do to protect yourself?
The first thing to remember is that treatment and prevention are both available. At Central Outreach Wellness Center, our locations in Pittsburgh and Washington, PA are prepared to test and treat patients for monkeypox. If you think you may have been exposed to the virus, please contact us immediately.
Here are some more important answers to common questions about monkeypox:
What is Monkeypox Virus?
Monkeypox is a rare, pox-like disease caused by the monkeypox virus. This virus is similar to the smallpox virus, which was eradicated globally in 1980. However, monkeypox still occurs sporadically in remote parts of Africa and Asia.
Monkeypox is usually transmitted to humans from infected animals, such as monkeys, rats, and rabbits. The virus can also be spread from person to person, although this is less common.
How Is a Monkeypox Virus Infection Transferred?
Like other infectious diseases that are capable of human-to-human transmission, monkeypox spreads through contact with contaminated body fluids, such as blood, saliva, or mucus. It can also be spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, such as touching or shaking hands. The virus can also be spread indirectly, through contact with contaminated objects, such as bedding or clothing.
It's important to note that monkeypox infections are also spread via sexual transmission. Sexual contact is currently being investigated as the most common mode of transmission for this outbreak, particularly in LGBTQ+ communities.
What Are the Common Monkeypox Symptoms?
Symptoms of monkeypox may vary depending on the individual, as well as the stage at which the virus is caught. However, the most common signs of monkeypox include:
- Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, sore throat, and muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Skin lesions
These skin lesions are one of the most distinguishing features of monkeypox. They typically begin as small, red bumps that eventually turn into large blisters filled with pus. The lesions may be scattered all over the body or concentrated in certain areas, such as the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.
How Can I Distinguish Monkeypox Sores From Other Rashes?
Because the rash associated with monkeypox may be its most distinctive feature, it's important to be able to identify it. The monkeypox rash is usually red, and bumpy, and progresses from flat lesions to blisters. It can appear on any part of the body, but often starts on the face and spreads to other parts of the body.
Once lesions appear, they may progress as follows:
- Macules (1-2 days): A macular rash appears on the skin, starting on the face and spreading.
- Papules (1-2 days): Lesions have progressed to macular (flat) and papular (raised).
- Vesicles (1-2 days): Lesions become raised and filled with fluid.
- Pustules (5-7 days): Lesions become filled with opaque fluid, sharply raised, usually round, and firm to the touch.
- Scabs (7-14 days): Pustules have crusted and scabbed over before falling off.
Who Is At Risk for Monkeypox?
Anyone who comes into contact with an infected animal or person is at risk for monkeypox. However, some people are more likely to develop severe monkeypox infections, including:
- Children under the age of 5
- Elderly adults over the age of 60
- People with weakened immune systems
- Pregnant women
- Those who have visited previously affected countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Nigeria
LGBTQ+ individuals have also been disproportionately affected by the monkeypox outbreak in Pennsylvania and Ohio. This is likely due to the high rate of sexual transmission within this community.
Receiving Monkeypox Treatment
While monkeypox is usually a mild disease, it can sometimes lead to more serious complications. These more severe outcomes may include:
- Brain swelling (encephalitis)
- Kidney failure
- Severe skin infections
- In serious untreated cases, death
For these reasons, it's important to seek medical care if you think you may have contracted monkeypox. There is no specific monkeypox treatment available, but because the disease is similar to smallpox, doctors may use smallpox vaccines or antiviral treatment to help ease symptoms and speed up recovery.
Rapid identification of monkeypox is possible using laboratory testing, which can be performed at the Central Outreach Wellness Center in Pittsburgh. Our team of medical professionals is prepared to treat and diagnose monkeypox, as well as provide supportive care to help patients recover without judgment or hassle.
If you think you may have been exposed to the virus, or if you're showing any symptoms, please contact a Central Outreach healthcare provider today to schedule an appointment. We can help get you the care and treatment you need.
Practicing Monkeypox Prevention
There is no specific monkeypox prevention available, but there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of exposure, including:
- Avoiding contact with wild animals, especially rodents and primates
- Washing your hands often with soap and water
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
- Before having sex, communicate with your partner about monkeypox
- Staying up-to-date on vaccinations, especially your smallpox vaccination
Because smallpox and monkeypox are similar, the smallpox vaccine may offer some protection against monkeypox. At Central Outreach, we provide the following smallpox vaccines for those who have confirmed cases of exposure:
- ACAM2000: Administered as a live virus preparation that is inoculated into the skin by pricking the skin surface. Following a successful inoculation, a lesion will develop at the site of the vaccination. The virus growing at the site of this inoculation lesion can be spread to other parts of the body or even to other people, so individuals who receive vaccination with ACAM2000 must take precautions to prevent the spread of the vaccine virus.
- JYNNEOSTM: Administered as a live virus that is non-replicating. It is administered as two subcutaneous injections four weeks apart. There is no visible “take” and as a result, no risk for spread to other parts of the body or other people. People who receive JYNNEOS TM are not considered vaccinated until they receive both doses of the vaccine.
- Tecovirimat (ST-246): Central Outreach has partnered with the CDC and now is able to offer TPOXX(tecovirimat) for clients with presumed ocular risk, penile lesions, or peri-anal lesions. Studies indicate effectiveness in treating orthopoxvirus-induced disease.
Where Can I Learn More About Monkeypox?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a Monkeypox Exposure Questionnaire in response to the 2022 monkeypox outbreak to assist in assessing patient exposures prior to illness onset. It contains seven sections, four of which can be adapted to fit specific situational needs.
Find some additional resources from trusted sources below:
World Health Organization (WHO):
Think You May Be Exposed? Central Outreach Can Help
At Central Outreach Wellness Center, we pride ourselves on providing quality, compassionate care to all of our patients – regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Our culturally-competent health care professionals provide a judgment-free space where everyone is welcome, and we will do everything we can to keep you safe and healthy.
If you think you've been exposed to monkeypox, or if you're showing any symptoms, please contact a Central Outreach healthcare provider today. We can help get you the care and treatment you need.