Information About Monkeypox for the Community 

Monkeypox Health Information

On June 2, 2022, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced the first case of monkeypox in Philadelphia. On July 23, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern.” Our goal is to provide information about monkeypox without contributing to stigma. Monkeypox can affect anyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

 Monkeypox Vaccine Eligibility

Philadelphia FIGHT has received a very limited supply of monkeypox vaccine with strict guidelines on who can receive it.

According to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, to be eligible for the monkeypox vaccine at this time, you MUST be:

  • Gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, and other men who have sex with men, transgender, or non-binary persons

AND meet ONE of the following criteria:

  • Have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days
  • Have had any newly diagnosed STI in the past 12 months, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, early syphilis, or HIV
  • Have recently attended or plan to attend any venue where anonymous sex or sex with multiple partners will occur (e.g. saunas, bathhouses, sex clubs, sex parties) in the next 30 days
  • Have met recent partners or plan to meet new partners in the next 30 days through social media platforms (such as Grindr, Tinder or Scruff), or at clubs, raves, sex parties, sauna

ADDITIONALLY, any adult who meets any of the following criteria is eligible for a vaccine:

  • Sex workers (of any sex or gender), and/or
  •  Anyone with known close contact (skin-to-skin) with someone with monkeypox in the past 14 days

We hope that as more vaccines become available, most of these restrictions will be lifted. Please check back for updates.

 Accessing a Monkeypox Vaccine

 For FIGHT patients who are at risk of exposure to monkeypox:

  • If you meet the eligibility criteria and do NOT have any sick symptoms (of monkeypox or any other illness), please leave a message with your name and date of birth on the FIGHT monkeypox warmline at (267) 668-4211. You will be placed on a waitlist for a vaccine appointment.
  • If you have any sick symptoms, please call your Philadelphia FIGHT health center and ask to leave a message for a nurse. Explain your symptoms and that you are also interested in the monkeypox vaccine.

 For FIGHT patients who have been exposed to monkeypox:

For community members who are not FIGHT patients:

  • Call the Philadelphia Department of Public Health at (215) 685-5488 to talk to health department representative about a recent exposure or getting a vaccine.

 If you do not meet the current criteria, please check this website for updates. The criteria for who can be vaccinated will change as more vaccine becomes available.

Recording of FIGHT’s Community Conversation on Monkeypox

This video is a recording of Philadelphia FIGHT and JD Evans Solutions’ Community Conversation on Monkeypox, held on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. Please note, there are images in this recording that are graphic in nature and shared for the sole purpose of public health education.

Monkeypox is a disease caused by a virus that is usually found in Central and West Africa. Monkeypox was first discovered in laboratory monkeys in 1958. Monkeypox was reported in humans for the first time in 1970. It is called monkeypox because the disease was first discovered in monkeys. The World Health Organization is working to change the name of the disease to make it less stigmatizing.

In May 2022, about 200 cases of monkeypox were reported in Europe, North America, Israel, and Australia. Since then, more cases have been identified around the world, including in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. No one is known to have died in the current outbreak.

CDC Monkeypox Outbreak Global Map

To date, 96% of all cases in the United States have been among men who have sex with men. Itis critical to note that monkeypox can affect anyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, and despite a recent increase in cases, it is still considered a very rare infection Widespread transmission is currently considered very unlikely. Nevertheless, there is widespread concern among the LGBTQIA+ community both globally and here in Philadelphia, focused on the ways the community can educate and protect itself.

Our biggest concern with monkeypox is that it will spread among vulnerable communities with little access to and/or trust in the public health system. To date, about 96% of all monkeypox cases in the United States have been among men who have sex with men. These men have a median age of 36. For people living with undetectable and well-managed HIV, it seems unlikely that monkeypox will cause more severe disease than it does in people not living with HIV. For people who engage in in-person sex work and survival sex, there is increased concern, as monkeypox is easily spread by close, skin-to-skin contact.

Lesions, headaches, debilitating pain: Gay men with monkeypox share their stories | July 6

Symptoms usually start a week or two after exposure to someone with monkeypox. It sometimes starts with symptoms that might feel like the flu—fever, headache, body and backache, swollen lymph nodes, and chills—but some people do not experience these flu-like symptoms, at all. In the weeks after exposure, a rash resembling bumps or blisters develops. The rash can be seen anywhere on the body including the face, mouth, hands, genitals, or anus. This rash can last up to two to four weeks.

Image Examples of Monkeypox Blisters

Monkeypox is often spread through:

  • Close, personal, skin-to-skin contact
  • Direct contact with monkeypox rash, sores, or scabs
  • Oral, anal, and vaginal sex
  • Hugging, massage, and mutual masturbation
  • Dancing and clubbing with prolonged skin-to-skin contact

Monkeypox can also sometimes spread by:

  • Contact with objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox
  • Through respiratory droplets or oral fluids from a person with monkeypox

People with monkeypox are most contagious and can infect other people while they have a rash with bumps and blisters. It is possible someone is contagious before a rash develops. A person is contagious until after all the blisters have scabbed over, fallen off, and new skin has grown back. This usually takes 2-4 weeks after the rash first develops. People with a monkeypox rash should avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people. People with monkeypox should avoid sharing bedding, towels, clothes, sex toys, and other objects until their rash is healed.

The best way to avoid getting monkeypox is to avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people of unknown health status or who actively have monkeypox. You may choose to limit physical intimacy with sexual partners whose health status and recent travel history are unknown to you. We understand this is not possible for everyone. You may also choose to ask new sexual partners about whether they have any of the early symptoms of monkeypox, such as fevers, swollen glands, body aches, or a rash. Try to avoid contact with any bumps or blisters on a person’s skin or near their genitals and anus, if possible.

If you know someone with monkeypox, avoid close, prolonged, physical contact and touching things they have touched. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water and use hand sanitizer.

CDC: Social Gatherings, Safer Sex, and Monkeypox

CDC: Monkeypox Facts for People Who are Sexually Active

If you are a Philadelphia FIGHT Community Health Centers patient and are experiencing symptoms consistent with monkeypox or think you were exposed to monkeypox, please call your health center and ask to speak to a nurse. Please do not come into the clinic before speaking to a nurse on the phone. If you are not a Philadelphia FIGHT Community Health Centers patient, please contact your healthcare provider and check the Philadelphia Department of Public Health website for information and resources.

Local News

Other resources:

Jen Wright

In The Spotlight

Jen Wright

Jen Wright is the Administrative Director of the Community COVID-19 Testing and Vaccination Team. Under their leadership, the team has tested over 16,000 people and supplied more than 4000 vaccines throughout Philadelphia.

Learn More about Jen Wrightabout Jen Wright

Dr. Jeffery Eugene

Dr JJeffery Eugene

Jeffrey is a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist. His clinical expertise is in adolescent and young adult primary care, gender affirming medical care, sexual and reproductive health, medical care for youth living with HIV, and eating disorders.

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