Monkeypox vs smallpox. Plus California numbers and vaccines

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Monkeypox, declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization, has been reported throughout California with more than 400 probable and confirmed cases statewide, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Vaccines are available to help people protect against the monkeypox virus. So far in Sacramento County, more than 2,000 doses have been administered to residents.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending vaccinations to those who’ve been exposed to the monkeypox virus or have a higher risk of exposure. This includes healthcare and lab personnel that handle orthopox viruses and people who had multiple sexual partners in the past two weeks in a known outbreak area.

Here’s what to know about the vaccines and how monkeypox relates to other viruses.

What are the monkeypox vaccines?

There are two monkeypox vaccines available — Jynneos, also known as Imvamune or Imvanex, and ACAM2000, according to the CDC.

Both are a two-dose series. Recipients are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second shot of Jynneos and four weeks after the second dose of ACAM2000.

Even if you are fully vaccinated, the center advises that you continue taking preventative measures, including avoiding skin-to-skin contact with people who have a monkeypox rash, not touching bedding, clothes and towels of those infected and washing your hands often with soap .

Which vaccine should I get? What are the side effects?

ACAM2000 should not be given to people who have the following health conditions, according to the CDC:

  • Cardiac disease
  • Eye disease treated with topical steroids
  • Congenital or acquired immune deficiency disorders, such as people who take immunosuppressive medications and those with HIV, regardless of immune status
  • Atopic dermatitis or eczema
  • People who have a history of atopic dermatitis, eczema or other acute or exfoliative skin conditions
  • Infants younger than 12 months
  • Pregnant people

Common side affects of this vaccine include pain at the injection site, swelling, redness, fever, swollen lymph nodes and rash.

People with conditions that limit them from ACAM2000, may be eligible for Jynneos. The CDC considers the Jynneos vaccine safe for people with HIV or atopical dermatitis. Currently, there isn’t data on its affect on pregnant people, but research on animals does not show reproductive harm.

Adverse reactions of Jynneos include pain, swelling and redness at the injection site.

I had the smallpox vaccine. Am I protected from monkeypox?

Yes.

The CDC states that since the monkeypox virus is related to smallpox, the smallpox vaccine can protect people from monkeypox with its 85% effective rate.

If you are exposed to monkeypox and it’s been three years since you got the smallpox vaccine, consider getting another shot. The sooner you get it, the center said, the better your protection. If you get vaccinated four to 14 days after exposure, you may be able to reduce symptoms.

Smallpox was no longer circulating by 1980, but was “very contagious and spread more easily than monkeypox.” The two have similar symptoms, according to the Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit academic medical center, stated on its website.

Is the disease related to chickenpox? Shingles?

Despite its similar name, monkeypox is not related to chickenpox. Monkeypox is an orthopox virus and chickenpox is a varicella virus, according to the WHO.

While both of the viruses result in skin rashes and can be spread skin-to-skin and face-to-face, chickenpox is more contagious and transmissible than monkeypox, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Chickenpox rashes appear in waves, with new blisters forming, while monkeypox sores show up at the same time, according to the clinic. Those with monkeypox may also get swollen lymph nodes.

Additionally, chickenpox typically clears up within two weeks, while monkeypox can take up to four weeks.

Likewise, monkeypox is not related to shingles, which is a reactivation of the varicella zoster virus — the one that causes chickenpox, according to Reuters Fact Check.

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This story was originally published July 27, 2022 5:00 AM.

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Hanh Truong is a reporter on The Sacramento Bee’s utility desk. She was previously a freelance journalist, covering education and culture for PBS SoCal and music for buzzbands.la.

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