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What is Monkeypox, and what do I need to know about it?

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

Monkeypox is an infectious viral disease that can occur in humans and some other animals. Monkeypox is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are like smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal.

Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, but it IS a sexually transmissible disease. It spreads most easily via close, skin-to-skin contact, such as during sex. It can also be transmitted by touching something with the virus, such as clothes, towels, etc. and can also be passed through face-to-face contact, but that requires a relatively longer exposure period of roughly 3 hours. There are rumors that people who have received the smallpox vaccine may be at least partially protected, but that has not been proven, and the smallpox vaccine has not been widely administered since the late 1960s. Its efficacy is likely greatly reduced for recipients, by now. Few deaths have been reported due to Monkeypox. There is currently an outbreak, and there have been 364 cases reported in Virginia alone. There are currently 72 confirmed cases in Fairfax County. Maryland reports 534 cases, and DC reports 436 cases. Statistically, most of the cases have been men who have sex with men, between the ages of 20 and 39, and most cases have been diagnosed within the Black or Latinx communities. You can see more statistics at this link: Symptoms: Common symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, headache, backache, chills, exhaustion, respiratory symptoms such as congestion, cough, or sore throat, You may also get a rash near or on the genitals, anus, or other areas, such as the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth, that forms pimple- or blister-like lesions that may be painful or itchy, and then crusts over. Effective tests are available. Call your healthcare provider, or check the Fairfax County web site for more information. You may also call the Fairfax County Health Department Call Center at 703-267-3511, and they can assist you with locating testing. Duration and Time: The time from exposure to onset of symptoms ranges from five to twenty-one days. The duration of symptoms is typically two to four weeks. There may be mild symptoms, and it may occur without any symptoms being known. The classic presentation of fever and muscle pains, followed by swollen glands, with lesions all at the same stage, has not been found to be common to all outbreaks. Cases may be severe, especially in children, pregnant women, or people with suppressed immune systems. How do I protect myself against monkeypox? The best way to protect yourself against the Monkeypox virus is to get vaccinated. Recently, there have changes in how the vaccine gets administered. It was administered subcutaneously, like the flu shot or COVID shot. Now it is administered intra-dermally, between layers of skin on your forearm, like the tuberculosis test. That has made it possible to get 4-5 more doses from the same amount of vaccine, and has allowed health centers to loosen the criteria for vaccination. Many more people are considered eligible. Vaccines are currently being administered by Fairfax County Health. There is an online eligibility form that you can find at Once you determine eligibility, you will be directed to make an appointment for the vaccine. During the current outbreak, you may want to consider the following suggestions to reduce your risk:

  • Avoid large gatherings such as raves and dance parties where you may have close body contact with others.

  • Avoid physical intimacy with strangers whose health status and recent travel history you are not familiar with.

  • Ask new partners about whether they have any of the early symptoms of monkeypox, such as fevers, swollen glands, body aches, or a rash. These symptoms may be due to many other infections, but it will be good for those partners to seek medical care before engaging in any sexual activity.

  • Avoid sex clubs and saunas for the time being. If you do visit them, or go to private sex parties, minimizing physical contact and partners is a way to reduce your risk

The CDC has provided more detailed suggestions on reducing your risk, especially the risks of having sex. You can see more at this link: Fairfax County Government provides additional information: As does the CDC: Dulles Triangles Board will continue to keep everyone abreast of the changes, to help ensure that our community, loved ones and friends are aware. We are in the process of setting up a Town Hall meeting with Lani Steffens of Fairfax County Health Department, Monkeypox Virus Liaison Officer to discuss Monkeypox and preventions and treatment for our community.

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