Monkeypox

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 virus can be spread person-to-person through infected body fluids (including saliva and lesion fluid), items that have been in contact with infected fluids or lesion crusts, and respiratory droplets. People with monkeypox are infectious from the start of symptoms (before the rash forms) until the lesions heal and new skin forms underneath scabs and the scabs have all fallen off. If you have symptoms of monkeypox, isolate from others and contact a health care provider right away. Before visiting a health care provider, patients concerned that they might have monkeypox should call ahead to let their health care provider know of their concern.

Symptoms of monkeypox can include:

  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, and fatigue. These symptoms may occur before or after the rash appears, or not at all.
  • Rashes, bumps, or blisters on or around the genitals or in other areas like your hands, feet, chest, or face.

Monkeypox Vaccination

Alaska has received a small supply of JYNNEOS vaccine from the federal government. CDC recommends the vaccine be ideally given within 4 days of exposure, but it may be given up to 14 days after exposure.

People who live or work in Alaska, are aged 18 years or older and meet the eligibility criteria for Tier 1 or Tier 2 (below) should contact their local public health center if they wish to be vaccinated. Given the limited availability of vaccine, it may not be possible to vaccinate everyone who meets eligibility criteria right away, especially people in Tier 2. Currently, vaccination to prevent monkeypox is not recommended for the general public.

Tier 1: Post-exposure prophylaxis vaccination (PEP) for people (regardless of gender) who have had a documented/notified exposure to someone with monkeypox, including:
  • People who have been identified by public health authorities as a contact with high or intermediate risk exposure to monkeypox.
  • People who have been alerted that they may have been exposed to monkeypox, even if they are not contacted by a public health authority (e.g., a person who received a notification from a recent sexual partner or an anonymous notification of exposure).
Tier 2: Expanded post-exposure prophylaxis vaccination (PEP++) to reach people potentially at increased risk for monkeypox even if they have not had a documented/notified exposure to someone with monkeypox, including:
  • Gay, bisexual, or other men or transgender people who have sex with men AND
  • Have had multiple or anonymous sexual partners in the past 14 days.
Monkeypox vaccine is not currently available to order through VacTrAK. More information about Alaska’s JYNNEOS Vaccination Tiers is available. Please read the latest Alaska Public Health Alert Network message for additional information.  

History of Monkeypox

"Monkeypox" was so named because it was first discovered in 1958 in captive monkeys. 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). 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.

Monkeypox Outbreak—United States, 2022

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. A large proportion of cases are occurring among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. However, anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk.

Alaska Surveillance Data

The first case of monkeypox in Alaska was detected on July 28, 2022. State-level monkeypox case counts updated every weekday are available on the CDC's U.S. Map & Case Count webpage.

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. Testing is also available through a number of commercial laboratories.