In August, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra declared the ongoing spread of the monkeypox virus a Public Health Emergency.
ACL is working with our federal partners and stakeholders to help stop the spread of monkeypox and support people of all ages and abilities affected by the monkeypox outbreak.
On this page we are compiling information and resources on the virus; how it affects older adults, people with disabilities, and residents and staff of congregate settings; and what you can do to protect yourself.
We will continue to update this page with new resources as they become available.
What we know about monkeypox (Updated Sep. 7, 2022)
The monkeypox virus can cause a painful, sometimes debilitating rash that looks like blisters or pimples. It may be mistaken for chickenpox, shingles, or herpes. It is often accompanied by flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and exhaustion.
Monkeypox symptoms usually start within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus and typically last 2-4 weeks. The initial outbreak has been concentrated among men who have sex with men, however anyone can contract monkeypox.
How do you catch monkeypox?
Monkeypox is spread through close personal contact. This includes:
- Skin-to-skin contact. Most often, monkeypox is spread through intimate contact. However, holding someone with monkeypox or dressing, transferring, or bathing also could transmit the virus.
- Clothing or linens that have been used by someone with monkeypox and have not been disinfected can spread the virus.
- Exposure to respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact.
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.
Are older adults and people with disabilities at greater risk?
People in congregate setting like nursing homes, group homes, and assisted living facilities may be at increased risk of contracting and spreading monkeypox due to the close, prolonged contact residents have with each other and staff.
CDC stresses that there is no cause for alarm, but staff and residents should remain vigilant. For more information, see CDC’s special guidance for residents and staff of Congregate Living Settings
In addition, people who are immunocompromised or have a history of eczema, as well as people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, may be more likely to get seriously ill from a monkeypox infection
Can monkeypox be prevented and treated?
Monkeypox can be prevented by avoiding close contact, including intimate contact, with someone who is infected with the virus. CDC recommends that all people follow these basic prevention steps:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox. This also means following safer sex practices.
- Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.
- Wash your hands often.
In addition, residents and staff in congregate settings should follow infection control guidelines, including isolation and disinfectant protocols.
Should I get vaccinated?
CDC currently recommends vaccination only for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and people who are at highest risk due to sexual behavior. CDC's website has current information about who should get vaccinated.
What should I do if I think I have monkeypox?
If you have symptoms of monkeypox, you should talk to your healthcare provider, even if you don’t think you had contact with someone who has monkeypox.
Antiviral medicines may be recommended for people who are more likely to get severely ill, which includes people with weakened immune systems. (Most people with monkeypox recover fully within 2 to 4 weeks without the need for medical treatment.)
How do I get tested, vaccinated, or treated for monkeypox?
- You can visit your local Department of Health’s website or call 311 to find a vaccination provider.
- The anti-viral TPOXX must be ordered by a doctor and it isn’t available at retail pharmacies.
- Vaccination and antiviral medications are free even for those without insurance although certain associated costs- like a primary care physician's visit- may have an associated charge. Check with your provider for more information.