Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with monkeypox virus. Monkeypox virus belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae. The Orthopoxvirus genus also includes variola virus (which causes smallpox, which has been eradicated), vaccinia virus (used in the smallpox vaccine), cowpox virus, and Alaskapox virus.

Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name ‘monkeypox.’ The natural animal reservoir of monkeypox remains unknown. However, African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) may harbor the virus and infect people.

The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox. Since then, monkeypox has been reported in people in several other central and western African countries. Monkeypox cases in people have occurred outside of Africa linked to international travel or imported animals, including cases in the United States. In 2022, cases of monkeypox began to be identified in the United States that could not be directly linked to international travel or to imported animals. Scientists are working to learn more about the epidemiology of monkeypox and how it is spreading. Early data suggest that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men make up a high number of cases. However, anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk.

Alaska Surveillance Data

No cases of monkeypox have been detected in Alaska as of June 7, 2022.

Resources for the General Public

Resources for Health Care Professionals

Infectious Disease Program Resources

Health care providers in Alaska should report suspected monkeypox cases to SOE immediately; please call SOE at 907-269-8000, or 1-800-478-0084 after hours. SOE can assist providers in obtaining appropriate clinical specimens that should be routed to the Alaska State Public Health Laboratory (ASPHL) in Anchorage for testing.