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How serious is monkeypox?

Céline Gounder, MD, Infectious Disease Specialist answers questions about the monkeypox virus.

Monkeypox is a virus that’s a close cousin of smallpox.

It can cause much more severe disease and death, particularly in people who have weaker immune systems that could be from AIDS or from a cancer or cancer treatment, as well as pregnant women. This is a concern because if a pregnant woman gets monkeypox, she can pass that on to her unborn child either during pregnancy or during the birth. Monkeypox can also be very dangerous for people who are immunocompromised, have weakened immune systems, or who have severe skin diseases.

If you have HIV and AIDS and your immune system is weak with a CD four count, especially below 200, you are at risk for more severe complications of monkeypox including death. We strongly recommend that you see an HIV care provider and start antiretroviral therapy. That will be the best way to protect you against the consequences of HIV and AIDS, including developing severe forms of monkeypox.

There are experimental treatments for monkeypox that we may use if somebody develops a severe case of monkeypox disease or if they’re at very high risk for severe disease.

For more on monkeypox, visit greaterthan.org/monkeypox.

Think you may have been exposed to monkeypox? Find a health clinic near you.

Get screened by a medical professional. Care at these clinics is often FREE or provided on a sliding scale. You can also get information about vaccination.

GetTested.CDC.gov