North Central Health District

COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENTS

Monkeypox

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Healthcare providers who suspect monkeypox in a patient should report immediately to DPH by calling
1-866-PUB-HLTH (1-866-782-4584).

For additional reporting options, visit our Epidemiology page.

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. This family of viruses include vaccinia virus and the cowpox virus. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.

Monkeypox was discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research. Despite being named “monkeypox,” the source of the disease remains unknown. However, African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) might harbor the virus and infect people.

The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970. Prior to the 2022 outbreak, monkeypox had been reported in people in several central and western African countries. Previously, almost all monkeypox cases in people outside of Africa were linked to international travel to countries where the disease commonly occurs or through imported animals. These cases occurred on multiple continents.

2022 Monkeypox Outbreak

In 2022, countries that do not normally experience monkeypox outbreaks began to report a rise in cases. Eventually, the illness was detected in the United States and later in Georgia. Early data on the current global outbreak suggest that gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men make up the majority of cases, but it is important to note that anyone who has close contact with someone with monkeypox is at risk for infection.

Monkeypox Vaccine

Currently, vaccine supply is extremely limited across the country and every state is awaiting more vaccine allocations from our federal agencies. At this time, monkeypox vaccination is available at two North Central Health District county health departments by appointment:

  • Houston County Health Department: Tuesdays, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
  • Baldwin County Health Department: Thursdays, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.

To register for monkeypox vaccination at either location, visit DPH’s Vaccination Appointment website or call the Vaccine Scheduling Resource Line at (888) 457-0186. The scheduling tool allows you to choose a first or second dose of Jynneos™ monkeypox vaccine from a dropdown menu. Because monkeypox vaccine supply remains limited, you will be asked to answer a series of questions that help DPH prioritize vaccine to individuals who may have been exposed to monkeypox. The questions follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for administering monkeypox vaccine.

Monkeypox Testing

People who think they have monkeypox or have had close personal contact with someone who has monkeypox should contact a healthcare provider to help them decide if they need to be tested for monkeypox. All 13 NCHD county health departments are able to test for monkeypox by appointment. Contact your local health department to schedule testing. PLEASE NOTE: testing is only possible if the rash associated with monkeypox is present. 

Transmission

Monkeypox spreads in different ways. The virus can spread person-to-person through:

  • Direct Contact with infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids​
  • Respiratory secretions/droplets during prolonged, face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling or sex​
  • Touching items, like clothes or bedding, that touch infectious rashes or body fluids
  • A pregnant mother to the fetus through the placenta​​

Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed (patients are to remain on isolation until a fresh layer of skin forms). People who do not have monkeypox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others. Currently, it is not known if monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids.

It’s also possible for people to get monkeypox from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal.

Symptoms

Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder; and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Symptoms are similar to a variety of illnesses and can include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Exhaustion

A major symptom of monkeypox is the associated rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, in the mouth and on other parts of the body like hands, feet, chest, genitals or anus. The rash goes through stages before healing completely. To see examples of the rash, visit CDC’s monkeypox symptoms page.

Symptoms usually last 2 – 4 weeks, but the time can vary based on other factors. Severity of illness can depend on factors including the health of the individual, the route of exposure, any simultaneous illnesses or chronic medical conditions and the strain of the virus.

While severe illness and death is rare in most cases, children have a higher risk of severe outcomes based on previous outbreaks of monkeypox.

    Prevention

    Protect Yourself

    You can take steps to protect against the virus:

    • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
      • 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 share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox.
    • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
    • 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 monkeypox virus, usually rodents and primates. Also, avoid sick or dead animals, as well as bedding or other materials they have touched.

    Protect Others

    You can help reduce the risk of monkeypox. If you have symptoms of monkeypox:

    • 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.
    Vaccination

    Currently, vaccine supply is extremely limited across the country and every state is awaiting more vaccine allocations from our federal agencies. At this time, monkeypox vaccination is available at two North Central Health District county health departments by appointment:

    • Houston County Health Department: Tuesdays, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
    • Baldwin County Health Department: Thursdays, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.

    To register for monkeypox vaccination at either location, visit DPH’s Vaccination Appointment website or call the Vaccine Scheduling Resource Line at (888) 457-0186. The scheduling tool allows you to choose a first or second dose of Jynneos™ monkeypox vaccine from a dropdown menu. Because monkeypox vaccine supply remains limited, you will be asked to answer a series of questions that help DPH prioritize vaccine to individuals who may have been exposed to monkeypox. The questions follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for administering monkeypox vaccine.

    CDC recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and people who are at higher risk of being exposed to monkeypox, including:

    • People who have been identified by public health officials as a contact of someone with monkeypox
    • People who may have been exposed to monkeypox, such as:
      • People who are aware that one of their sexual partners in the past 2 weeks has been diagnosed with monkeypox
      • People who had multiple sexual partners in the past 2 weeks in an area with known monkeypox
    • People whose jobs may expose them to orthopoxviruses, such as:
      • Laboratory workers who perform testing for orthopoxviruses
      • Laboratory workers who handle cultures or animals with orthopoxviruses
      • Some designated healthcare or public health workers

    Guidance Documents:

    Learn about our related health services:

    Child and Adult COVID-19 vaccine available! Now vaccinating ages 6 months and older. Booster doses available for those eligible. All 13 county health departments providing vaccines.See Schedule