You might have heard the word monkeypox in the news and conversation recently. And though the World Health Organization now recommends the name mpox instead, the name change doesn’t do much to make it sound less scary. So let’s take some time to explain this disease and whether you need to be worried about it in Montana.
Mpox is a viral infection that’s transmitted from close contact. That could be any skin-to-skin contact like kissing, sex, or other physical touching. It can also spread from touching items that touch an infected person's rash or bodily fluids. And infected animals can also spread the virus through biting, scratching, or consuming infected meat or other products.
Symptoms include a rash that may look like blisters or pimples, and it could be mistaken for herpes or syphilis or even just a typical skin rash. It might be itchy or painful and could show up on the genitals, anus, face, feet, hands, mouth, or other parts of the body. Other symptoms might include fever, headache, chills, exhaustion, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, or respiratory symptoms. Signs of infection usually start 5 to 21 days after exposure, according to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).
Anyone can get mpox. People with close social interactions have a higher chance of getting infected. And men who have sex with men have been more heavily impacted. But people who have had intimate physical contact with others infected with mpox and are contagious could contract it.
Most members of the general public do not need to get vaccinated to protect against mpox, according to MDHHS. But experts recommend vaccination for people at an increased risk of contracting the virus. If you meet the criteria for people, who can get vaccinated and feel at an increased risk, talk to your healthcare provider about receiving the vaccine.
If you notice signs and symptoms of mpox, or you think you might have been exposed to someone with mpox, the first step is to avoid close contact with others. That includes family, sex partners, and pets. Then make an appointment with your provider. You should wear a mask to the appointment and keep the rash covered until instructed otherwise by your provider. They may recommend testing. When you’re waiting for test results, continue to isolate yourself from others. Most cases go away on their own in 2 to 4 weeks, but if you have a severe case, there are antiviral treatments available that you can discuss with your provider.
At the time of writing, seven cases of mpox have been diagnosed in the state. That includes cases in Flathead, Gallatin, Cascade, Lake, Hill and Missoula counties. Across the country in 2022, there have been 29,711 reported cases, with 20 deaths. Fortunately, the strain of the virus going around right now is far less likely to be fatal—over 99% of people who get this form of the disease are likely to survive. The other strain has a higher mortality rate, at 10%, based on data provided by MDHHS. So it’s still essential to go in for a test if you think you might have mpox or have been exposed.
Making an appointment with your provider at CHP is a great first step if you’re concerned about your health or risk factors. Give one of our clinics a call, whether you’re in Bozeman, Belgrade, or Livingston, and your provider can help answer your questions.