Skip main navigation

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

What You Need to Know About Mpox

Image of A human hand with sores. Monkeypox symptoms include fever, a rash, skin blisters, and others. (Photo: National Health Service England High Consequence Infectious Diseases Network and CDC)

The infectious viral disease mpox is slowly spreading around the world, including the United States. On August 4, the United States formally declared it a public health emergency.

Mpox can spread by anyone to anyone. While international, national, state, and local health officials closely monitor the outbreak, Military Health System officials are carefully tracking the spread as well.

As of August 4, U.S. counts are approximately 7,000 probable or confirmed cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC maintains a public daily case count dashboard. The number may seem small, but it increases daily.

While there are few cases reported among military personnel and their families, the declaration of a national health emergency means that it constitutes a "public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease,” according to the World Health Organization.

Defense health officials emphasize that if you think you may have mpox, “the first thing to do…is ensure you are not further exposing other people, which means not having close, intimate contact with others until you are asymptomatic,” said Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Scott Robinson, the Public Health Emergency officer for the Defense Health Agency.

What Does Mpox Look and Feel Like?

The disease most commonly starts with fever, then painful lymph nodes and a rash that typically develops one to three days after the fever begins, according to the CDC.

The rash is the most significant feature of mpox, spreading into small, fluid-filled blisters. They become round and hard, like pimples, and then scab.

You may also have headache, muscle aches, chills, and exhaustion that begin between seven to 14 days after exposure but can develop between five to 21 days post-exposure.

You are no longer infectious once your scabs have healed, dropped off, and healthy new skin has grown where the lesions were located. That usually takes two to four weeks, according to Robinson.

Children under 8 years old, people who are pregnant or immunocompromised, and individuals with a history of atopic dermatitis or eczema may be at increased risk for severe outcomes from mpox.

Transmission

The CDC states that mpox is far less contagious than COVID-19 or the flu because you get it from an infected person when you come in direct contact with the rash on their skin, their lesions, or bodily fluids, or if you touch bedding or clothing that has come in contact with those.

You can also get mpox through droplets that disperse during prolonged face-to-face contact, such as kissing or cuddling, and through direct, intimate physical contact such as sex, according to the CDC.

Animals, such as dogs or cats, in an infected person’s household can become infected and transmit it to others. In Africa, infected wild animals are a common way people become infected.

Pain as a Symptom

Sometimes, the only sign of mpox is severe pain, Robinson said.

That can be because there may be ulcers inside patients’ mouths, urethra, or rectum where the patient can’t see them but feels severe pain that may require hospitalization.

“For sexually active people, I’d be concerned if they developed pain, even if it’s somewhere I can’t see. I’d want to get that checked out by a health care professional,” Robinson said.

The infection can also cause lymph nodes in the groin area or on the soft tissue of your neck to swell, which should concern the patient and lead to a check-up, he explained.

Blister-like lesions are a symptom of mpox. (Photo: Image used under license from Shutterstock.com) Blister-like lesions are a symptom of monkeypox. (Image used under license from Shutterstock.com)

What To Do for Suspected Monkeypox

If you think you’ve been exposed, notify your medical provider, and monitor yourself for symptoms for 21 days after your last close contact with an infected individual.

You may have to isolate yourself from other members of your household to limit the spread of the disease, including from pets. This means not having close contact, including touching or other physical contact, no prolonged face-to-face encounters, and not engaging in sex.

If you have a fever or a growing rash, see your medical health care professional in person.

Your medical provider will help you determine your risk of becoming ill with monkeypox and may offer preventive treatment if you are at high risk.

If you get a diagnosis of monkeypox, your medical provider must place you in isolation and treat you according to CDC guidelines for infection control.

Most patients with monkeypox have mild disease and don’t require medical intervention, CDC said. However, treatments are available and appear effective in reducing pain and duration of symptoms.

Treatment

The most common treatment for monkeypox includes supportive care, such as hydration and treatment of secondary bacterial infections.

There’s also an approved vaccine called Jynneos for monkeypox and antivirals that doctors may use in certain situations immediately after patient exposure, but these are not widely available in the United States. They are available from the government’s national stockpile of medicines.

“The treatments have been shown to be pretty good at preventing severe illness,” Robinson said.

“The earlier you get them, the better,” he noted, adding that “early treatment can prevent you from having symptoms or at least making sure that your symptoms are relatively mild.”

Seeking Care

[See also: How to Get Urgent Care Under Your TRICARE Health Plan]

If you experience monkeypox-like symptoms, Military Health System beneficiaries have resources available at military hospitals and clinics or within the TRICARE network of providers:

  • Notify your medical provider
  • Call the MHS Nurse Advice Line, open 24/7, at 1-800-TRICARE (874-2273)
  • Select Option 1, to talk to a registered nurse who can:
    • Answer your urgent care questions
    • Give you health care advice
    • Help you find a doctor
    • Schedule next-day appointments at military hospitals and clinics
  • Go to a TRICARE-authorized urgent care center, convenience clinic, or network provider:
    • Active-duty service members must first contact their primary care manager/provider or contact the Nurse Advice Line for a referral before visiting an urgent care center.
    • TRICARE Prime enrollees, other than active duty, only need a referral to see an out-of-network provider. Without a referral, they may incur higher point-of-service costs.

Resources

The CDC has published an extensive monkeypox resource library, to include fact sheets on transmission and treatment. Health.mil, the official Military Health System web site, maintains a monkeypox information page.

ArmyAir Force, and Navy and Marine Corps medical services also maintain fact sheets and reference materials.

MHS clinicians seeking vaccines for monkeypox post-exposure prophylaxis are encouraged to contact the DHA Immunization Healthcare Division’s 24/7 immunization clinical support center for assistance.

You also may be interested in...

Article Around MHS
Oct 4, 2023

Stemming the Tide: Navy Medicine and the Egyptian Cholera Epidemic of 1947

Over three months, cholera spread across 2,270 towns and villages in Egypt killing over half of its victims. According to one estimate over 20,000 Egyptians died of cholera. (Graphic by Andre Sobocinski)

On September 21, 1947, a man was admitted to the Al-Qurayn (El Korein) Hospital in Egypt vomiting profusely and suffering severe diarrhea. Within hours, he was dead. The attending physician on duty first suspected food poisoning before 11 additional patients were admitted with identical symptoms. Their diagnosis was cholera, a deadly bacterial disease ...

Article Around MHS
Sep 29, 2023

Real Life Falls Are Not a Laughing Matter: Protect your Body, Ego

Each year thousands of military personnel injure themselves because of falls from vehicles and equipment, tripping over objects, and slipping on hazardous surfaces like ice, snow, or water. Injuries include lacerations requiring stitches, concussions or head injury, sprained ankles, wrists or hands, and broken bones. These often require ER visits and can result in temporary disability and lost duty time for many days or even months. (Defense Centers for Public Health-Aberdeen graphic illustration by Joyce Kopatch)

Cartoons typically portray slips or falls as comical accidents. But falls are no laughing matter. Falls often cause injuries that require emergency room visits for injuries such as lacerations requiring stitches, concussions or head injury, sprained ankles, wrists or hands, or broken bones. Learn how to prevent fall-related injuries.

Article
Aug 1, 2023

Case Report: Complicated Urinary Tract Infection Due to an Extensively Resistant Escherichia coli in a Returning Traveler

This article presents the medical case report of a 76-year-old man who returned to the U.S. following overseas travel and was admitted at Hawai'i's Tri­pler Army Medical Center with a complicated urinary tract infection due to an extensively resistant strain of E. coli.

Article Around MHS
Jul 25, 2023

Defense Public Health Experts Investigate If Minority Group Service Members are More Likely to Experience Behavioral Health Problems

A recent Department of Defense study found American Indian and Alaska Native U.S. Army Soldiers had higher rates of suicidal ideation than white soldiers. The DOD is investigating behavioral health disparities among minority groups in the military to see how they might mirror similar disparities in the civilian population. (Graphic illustration: Steven Basso, Defense Centers for Public Health-Aberdeen)

U.S. public health agencies such as the National Institute of Mental Health have recognized that certain minority groups appear to experience greater risk for certain behavioral health disorders. The higher rates of adverse health problems in minority groups are often referred to as “disparities.”

Article
Jun 1, 2023

Absolute and Relative Morbidity Burdens Attributable to Various Illnesses and Injuries Among Active Component Members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2022

This annual summary uses several health care burden measures to quantify the impacts of various illnesses and injuries in 2022 among members of the active component of the U.S. Armed Forces. Health care burden metrics include the total number of medical encounters, individuals affected, and hospital bed days.

Article
Jun 1, 2023

Absolute and Relative Morbidity Burdens Attributable to Various Illnesses and Injuries Among Active Component Members, U.S. Coast Guard, 2022

This report employs the same disease classification system and health care burden measures as employed in the MSMR burden analysis of the U.S. Armed Forces active component to quantify the impacts of various illnesses and injuries among members of the active component of the U.S. Coast Guard in 2022.

Report
Jun 1, 2023

MSMR Vol. 30 No. 6 - June 2023

.PDF | 1.55 MB

This annual issue quantifies the impacts of various illnesses and injuries in 2022 among members of the active component of the U.S. Armed Forces as well as the U.S. Coast Guard; health care burden metrics include the total number of medical encounters, including hospitalizations and ambulatory services, as well as numbers and types of individuals ...

Skip subpage navigation
Refine your search
Last Updated: July 11, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery