Mpox is a rare disease caused by infection with the mpox virus. Mpox is not a novel virus like SARS-CoV-2, is rarely fatal, and resolves on its own. The Holy Cross Public Health and Emergency Response Teams are actively monitoring mpox and will continue to update you as we receive more information from the CDC, Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Worcester Department of Public Health.
Signs and Symptoms
A person may experience many or only a few of the following symptoms: fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, fatigue, congestion, cough, sore throat, and rash. Infected persons may develop a rash consisting of one or multiple lesions. The rash associated with mpoxmay be located on the genitals, hands, feet, chest, or face, and may be painful or itchy. The rash goes through many phases and may appear as blisters or scabs.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, please seek medical advice from Health Services by calling 508-793-2276 or your primary care provider.
Currently, the only way to test for mpox is if an individual presents with lesions. Lesions can be swabbed and sent for testing during different stages of healing.
Testing is available at Health Services. If you or someone you know is experiencing a rash as described above, please contact Health Services by calling 508-793-2276, your primary care provider, or a local clinic to be tested.
Mpox is most commonly spread through skin-to-skin contact, including but not limited to sexual intimacy. Sharing soiled linens, towels, or clothing may also result in transmission. Mpox can also be transmitted through respiratory secretions, though researchers are still determining the extent to which this occurs. You cannot contract mpox from a brief conversation or by walking by an infected individual.
At this time, close contacts are not required to quarantine, according to the CDC and the MA Department of Public Health. However, individuals who have had a high-risk exposure are eligible for post-exposure vaccination, and should monitor themselves for symptoms for the following 21 days.
Close contacts will be identified by the Holy Cross Public Health team in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Worcester Department of Public Health through in-depth interviews with infected persons. Contacts will be notified via a phone call from the Holy Cross Public Health team, and instructed on how to obtain a vaccine.
There are currently certain criteria that individuals have to meet to be eligible for the vaccine defined by the CDC. Currently, the vaccine is only available for those who are close contacts of someone who has been diagnosed with mpox and those who are more likely to get mpox.
If someone is a close contact to someone who has a diagnosis of mpox, the CDC recommends that the vaccine be given within 4 days from the date of exposure in order to prevent onset of the disease. The CDC states that if the vaccine is given between 4–14 days after the date of exposure, vaccination may reduce the symptoms of disease, but may not prevent the disease. Vaccination sites in Massachusetts can be found here.
If you are identified as a close contact, you will be notified and provided with information to obtain a vaccine.
Treatment & Isolation
Currently, there are no treatments specifically for mpox. The mpox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, which means that some antiviral drugs that are used for smallpox may be used for mpox in order to prevent and treat mpox. For questions or requests for antiviral medication, please contact your primary care provider.
People infected with mpox are required to isolate until lesions are fully healed and new skin is developing. Isolation could last 2 to 4 weeks and the individual diagnosed with mpox will be evaluated frequently by a public health official to assess the healing stages of the disease.
There are steps that you should take in order to prevent getting mpox. Avoid skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like mpox. This means avoid touching the rash or scabs of others, along with avoiding any kissing, hugging, cuddling or sexual interaction with someone who has been diagnosed with mpox. Avoid touching and other contact with objects and materials that a person who has been diagnosed with mpox has used. This means not sharing eating utensils or cups, and any bedding, towels or clothing of someone who has been diagnosed with mpox.
It is important to practice hand hygiene. Avoid touching your face before handwashing or the use of hand sanitizer. Always wash your hands after using the bathroom and before eating.