Monkeypox is a rare viral disease that can occur and spread amongst humans and certain other animals. Beginning in May 2022, a significant volume of monkeypox cases have been reported in countries that do not normally have them, including the United States. In August 2022, monkeypox was declared a public health emergency in the United States. Cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in Massachusetts and in the Greater Lowell region.
Individuals living in the City of Lowell who are diagnosed with monkeypox will be contacted by staff from the Lowell Health Department throughout the course of their disease to provide information and resources.
Individuals with monkeypox generally get a rash that initially looks like raised bumps, pimples, or fluid-filled sores. The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
Other symptoms of monkeypox can include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle aches and backache
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
In some cases, individuals infected with monkeypox develop flu-like symptoms before the rash, in others the rash appears first, followed by other symptoms. Some only experience a rash.
Symptoms generally begin within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus. Most people fully recover after 2-4 weeks.
How It Spreads
Monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including:
- Direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox.
- Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
- Contact with respiratory secretions.
This direct contact can happen during intimate contact, including:
- Oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) of a person with monkeypox.
- Hugging, massage, and kissing.
- Prolonged face-to-face contact.
- Touching fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with monkeypox and that have not been disinfected, such as bedding, towels, fetish gear, and sex toys.
A person with monkeypox can spread it to others from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed.
There are currently two vaccines licensed by the FDA available for prevention monkeypox infection. The most commonly used vaccine is JYNNEOS. Vaccinations are available for eligible individuals who live or work in Massachusetts by appointment only at several health care locations around Massachusetts.
For more information about vaccine eligibility and how to make an appointment, click here.
How to Protect Yourself
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.
Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.
- 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, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom.
Information and updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Information and updates from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Vaccination Information for Massachusetts Residents