Monkeypox (Mpox) is an infection transmitted by skin-to-skin contact and causes fever and painful skin blisters. It is in the Orthopoxvirus genus of viruses, which includes smallpox, so those vaccinated against it have cross-protection, smallpox vaccines also work for monkeypox.

It is usually self-resolving but has been linked to deaths in immunocompromised individuals and an antiviral drug like tecovirimat stops the spread of infection by interfering with a protein found on the surface of Orthopoxviruses. Those only work if people get vaccinated or treated. Those who engage in risky behavior and use phone apps should use extra caution, the authors of a recent paper note.

In 2022 there were over 30,000 cases reported, only among men who have sex with men in the U.S. but with only three cases in six months in the CDC's EMERGEncy ID NET, which since 1995 has included 13 dispersed U.S. emergency departments, the outbreak is over.

Smallpox vaccines are effective against monkeypox. Cristian Storto/Alamy Stock Photo

That is thanks to awareness, which leads to better judgment, and vaccination.  The authors of a new paper remain concerned despite the low numbers because of low vaccination uptake among gay and bisexual men who have sex with men(GBMSM), though they were almost exclusively the population afflicted and now are not, so vaccine efforts have been a success.

There were no reported cases in women or children. 

The sample population in the new paper were 196 enrolled persons, just under half female, and 20 percent were children. Mpox was only diagnosed in three (1.5%) individuals, each of whom identified as GBMSM and reported being HIV-negative, not being vaccinated against mpox, and having engaged in sex with one or more partners met on smartphone dating apps.

“This surveillance effort was unique in that it was based on testing all patients with an mpox-compatible rash regardless of presumed epidemiological risk,” said Dr. David Talan,  the study’s co-lead author and professor of emergency medicine/infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “This allowed us to investigate whether infection occurred in non-GBMSM individuals, groups who previously may not have been suspected and tested for mpox.”

Of concern is also a new mpox strain in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that appears to be more transmissible and virulent.