What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease caused by the monkeypox virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus, this includes the variola virus (which causes smallpox). Monkeypox is characterized by rash or skin lesions that are usually concentrated on the face, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet.

Two distinct clades are identified: the west African clade and the Congo Basin clade, also known as the central African clade. Human infections with the West African strain appear to cause less severe disease compared to the Congo Basin strain.


Monkeypox can spread to people when they come into physical contact with an infected animal. Traditionally, monkeypox is transmitted from person to person mainly through direct or indirect contact with the rash, bodily fluids (such as fluid, pus, or blood from skin lesions), and scabs are particularly infectious. Clothing, bedding, towels, or objects like eating utensils/dishes that have been contaminated with the virus from contact with an infected person can also infect others.

The virus can also spread from someone who is pregnant to the fetus from the placenta, or from an infected parent to child during or after birth through skin-to-skin contact. It is not clear whether people who do not have symptoms can spread the disease.


There are no specific treatments for monkeypox virus infection. Monkeypox symptoms often resolve on their own without the need for treatment. Clinical care for monkeypox should be fully optimized to alleviate symptoms, manage complications and prevent long-term sequelae. It is important to take care of the rash by letting it dry if possible or covering it with a moist dressing to protect the area if needed. Avoid touching any sores in the mouth or eyes. Mouth rinses and eye drops can be used as long as cortisone-containing products are avoided. An antiviral that was developed to treat smallpox (tecovirimat, commercialized as TPOXX) was also approved for the treatment of monkeypox in January 2022. More info

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Technical considerations
Weekly Regional Situation Report

What PAHO does

The Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) supports the Member States with surveillance, preparedness, and outbreak response activities for monkeypox in affected countries. WHO is working to improve access to a vaccine that was developed for smallpox (MVA-BN, also known as Imvamune, Imvanex, or Jynneos) which was approved in 2019 for use in preventing monkeypox and is not yet widely available.

Additionally, given the occurrence of cases of monkeypox in countries within and outside of the Region of the Americas, PAHO/WHO shares with its Member States a series of considerations in relation to the identification of cases, the isolation, identification, and follow-up of contacts, the clinical management, and the prevention and control of healthcare-associated infections. Guidance regarding available treatment and vaccines is also provided.

PAHO's response 

PAHO activated its standard emergency procedures (SEPs) and established an incident management team with the active participation of personnel from over 15 entities of PAHO/HQ to ensure a timely response to the outbreak and lead preparedness efforts in the Member States. Based on the epidemiological situation and evidence from Europe, the response is currently focused on four main pillars: communication and engagement of at-risk communities; timely detection and treatment of patients and protection of health workers; laboratory confirmation, surveillance, and containment of transmission chains; and securing access to critical health supplies.

Donor alert

PAHO and its strategic partners throughout the Region, using a whole-of-society approach have launched a Response Strategy and Donor Alert to continue supporting Latin American and Caribbean countries. Funds are required for preparing and responding to outbreaks through the development and reinforcement of appropriate communication and engagement strategies, strengthening of detection and treatment capabilities, protecting health workers, containing the spread of the outbreak, and ensuring access to necessary supplies and equipment to guarantee a timely and adequate response.

An estimated US$1,284,000 is needed for the initial 3-month response plan to stem further transmission of monkeypox and mitigate the impact of the outbreak in the Americas.

Donations will enable us to:

  • Ensure evidence-based information is communicated appropriately and that communities are engaged to prevent infection, and combat misinformation.
  • Ensure that the Member States have installed capacities to timely detect and contain the spread of the Monkeypox.
  • Treat and protect health workers, ensuring that the Member States receive evidence-based guidance and appropriate tools to adequately manage cases of Monkeypox.
  • Provide leadership, coordination, and logistical support for the emergency response phase of the MPX epidemics in the Region.