A medical laboratory technician this week picks up from a...

A medical laboratory technician this week picks up from a fridge a reactive to test suspected monkeypox samples at the microbiology laboratory of La Paz Hospital in Madrid, Spain.

Credit: Getty Images/Pablo Blazquez Dominguez

Monkeypox is typically found in certain African countries — but now it’s in Europe, the United States and beyond. Earlier this week, the CDC increased its alert level to its second of three levels, urging travelers to “practice enhanced precautions,” such as avoiding eating meat from wild game.

Here are some questions and answers about the fast-spreading virus.

How many cases have been reported in this outbreak?

As of June 2, there have been 780 laboratory-confirmed cases from nations such as the United States that typically have cases, according to a June 5 bulletin from the World Health Organization. Most of those cases have been diagnosed through clinics and other medical facilities that serve men who have sex with men, and most are in Europe. 

What are monkeypox’s symptoms?

Rash with blisters on genitals, mouth, eyes, feet, hands or face; fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, muscle aches and low energy, according to the World Health Organization.

What’s the test for monkeypox?

A PCR test — polymerase chain reaction, the same sort of technology to test for COVID — by sampling "skin lesion material, including swabs of lesion surface and/or exudate, roofs from more than one lesion, or lesion crusts,” says the WHO.

Can monkeypox be fatal?

Yes, but rarely.

How is monkeypox transmitted?

Via close physical contact — such as touching and being face-to-face — with someone with symptoms. Sex and other intimate contact was an early and primary mode of transmission.

What characteristic do most of those who have been infected with the virus share?

Most, though not all, of the cases of monkeypox have been diagnosed in men who have sex with men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For example, as of May 31, 16 of the 17 cases in the United States had been diagnosed in men who say they are gay, bisexual or are otherwise sexually active with men.

What are the origins of monkeypox?

The virus belongs to the same genus, Orthopoxvirus, that causes smallpox and cowpox. Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 during two outbreaks of a pox-like disease in colonies of monkeys kept for research, and the first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Where in the United States have cases been identified?

As of Monday afternoon, there have been 31 cases so far in the United States, according to the CDC. New York leads the nation, as of Monday, with seven cases, the CDC said, followed by California with six cases and four in Florida. Cases have also been identified in Washington, D.C., Illinois, Utah, Virginia, Hawaii and Georgia.

Have any cases been detected outside New York City?

Until Tuesday, all reported cases in New York had been confined to the city. But late Tuesday afternoon, the state Health Department, which has more updated numbers for cases than the CDC, reported an additional case involving a Sullivan County resident — who had traveled outside the United States. Eight of the cases are of New York City residents, said Samantha Fuld, a spokeswoman for the New York State Health Department. 

How long does monkeypox take from the time a person is infected until symptoms start to show?

Typically it’s 7 to 14 days, but it can be as soon as 5 days or as long as 21 days.

Is there a treatment?

The CDC says, "there is no specific treatment approved for monkeypox virus infections. However, antivirals developed for use in patients with smallpox may prove beneficial.” The U.S. government is distributing an oral antiviral called tecovirimat, which was approved in recent years to treat smallpox but can also treat monkeypox.

How about a vaccine?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Monday that the country has more than 36,000 doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine immediately available in the strategic national stockpile, CNBC reported. The CDC is earmarking the vaccine for high-risk people who have had exposure to the virus.

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