Monkeypox

Overview

Since late May 2022, the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE), along with other agencies in the state of Colorado, have been monitoring and investigating cases of monkeypox in the Denver metro area. Monkeypox is rare and the transmission risk to the public is relatively low, however it is important to know the signs and symptoms of monkeypox and how it spreads.

What is monkeypox? 

Monkeypox is a virus in the orthopoxvirus family, the same family of viruses that includes smallpox.

Monkeypox has recently been spreading in locations that do not typically report cases or local transmission of the virus, including the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia. Monkeypox is endemic in Central and Western Africa, and prior to 2022 almost all cases reported occurred in that region or had recent travel there. This type of monkeypox infection frequently resolves on its own and has a fatality rate of less than 1%.

Monkeypox symptoms

Symptoms often begin as flu-like symptoms that can include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and exhaustion. Typically, a rash or bumps on the skin develop within 1-3 days after the onset of fever, but sometimes individuals only experience a rash and no other symptoms. The rash or bumps can look like pimples, blisters, or lesions that can appear in many places on the body including on the face, inside the mouth, other parts of the body like hands, feet, or chest, as well as in the genital or anal area.   

How does monkeypox spread? 

Monkeypox is primarily spread person-to-person when someone who has monkeypox has close, physical contact with someone else. Close contact with monkeypox means: 

  • Physical contact with a sick person’s rash, bumps, or lesions.
  • Contact with respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact (3 hours or more without face coverings).
  • Intimate physical contact such as kissing, cuddling, or sexual contact.
  • Touching bed linens, clothing, bandages, or other materials of someone who is sick, especially materials that came in contact with lesions.  

Brief interactions with someone without physical contact are unlikely to result in spreading the virus. Direct physical contact (typically contact with lesions or lesion material) or prolonged close contact for more than 3 hours is how monkeypox spreads.  

The rash associated with monkeypox goes through different stages before healing completely. An individual sick with monkeypox is considered contagious from the onset of their symptoms until their rash, bumps, or lesions have fully scabbed, healed, and new skin has formed. This typically lasts 2-4 weeks.  

Monkeypox cases in Denver 

Date Reported

Number of cases

May 2022

1

June 2022

6

July 2022

33

August 2022

5

 Total  45

* Numbers are updated on Monday of each week by 5 p.m.

Treatment

There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections. However, monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, which means that antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections.

Antivirals, such as tecovirimat (TPOXX), may be recommended for people who are more likely to get severely ill, like patients with weakened immune systems.

If you have symptoms of monkeypox, you should talk to your healthcare provider, even if you don’t think you had contact with someone who has monkeypox.

Prevention

Take the following steps to prevent getting monkeypox:

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.

If you are sick with 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

Vaccine Information

Vaccines can be used to reduce the likelihood of infection in people who may have been exposed to monkeypox or reduce the severity of symptoms if someone does get sick. The vaccine must be administered prior to onset of symptoms to be effective against becoming infected. Currently, JYNNEOS vaccine is the only monkeypox vaccine available to Colorado residents to limitations in supply.

Getting vaccinated lowers your chance of getting monkeypox if you are exposed to the virus. The sooner an exposed person gets the vaccine, the better. The vaccine can also reduce the severity of your symptoms if you do get sick later. People who already have symptoms of monkeypox, or are confirmed to have been infected with monkeypox, should not get vaccinated.

The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) is managing monkeypox vaccine distribution in Colorado. CDPHE is hosting free vaccine clinics for eligible Coloradoans who meet the criteria below. The clinics and number of appointments are based on the availability of vaccine, which is limited in supply. Please refer to CDPHE’s Monkeypox webpage for information about the clinics and how to request an appointment. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible for a monkeypox vaccine in Colorado?

Eligibility for monkeypox vaccination may change as the outbreak evolves and based on vaccine supply. People who meet the following conditions are currently eligible to be vaccinated in Colorado:

  • Gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men aged 18 years and older who have had multiple sexual partners, and/or sexual partners they did not previously know, in the last 14 days.
  • Anyone aged 18 years and older who believes they have been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox in the last 14 days.
  • Anyone identified by a state or local health department as having had close contact with a confirmed or probable monkeypox case.

What should I do if I suspect myself or someone I know has monkeypox?

If an individual has skin lesions and suspects they have monkeypox, they should contact their doctor or seek medical attention. A medical provider can help determine if testing is appropriate, and if there are other possible explanations for a person’s illness. 

If you think you have been exposed to monkeypox or are experiencing symptoms, see a healthcare provider or call 1-877-462-2911.

Where to get tested for monkeypox

If you have symptoms and are concerned about monkeypox, contact your healthcare provider for an evaluation or go to a nearby Urgent Care location.  Samples collected by a healthcare provider can now be tested at most commercial labs.  People with symptoms who do not have a healthcare provider and had known contact to someone with monkeypox or are at increased risk from sexual exposure, can call the phone number listed to ask about available appointments. If you have a rash or sores, cover them with long sleeves, pants, or a bandage until otherwise told by a doctor. Wear a well-fitting mask over your nose and mouth during your appointment.  

Denver Sexual Health Clinic

Phone: (303) 602-3540
Address: 660 N. Bannock St., Pavilion L, 2nd Floor, Denver, CO 80204

 

Jefferson County Public Health Sexual and Reproductive Health Clinic
Phone: (303) 239-7040
Address: 645 Parfet St., Lakewood, CO 80215