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The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) confirmed two cases of mpox this week — the first cases reported in 2023. Both cases were in adults in Hennepin County. The last reported case of mpox (formerly known as monkeypox) in Minnesota was reported in November 2022. In 2022, Minnesota reported 234 cases of mpox.

Image/Minnesota DOH

The virus is primarily spread by prolonged close contact, typically skin-to-skin contact, with rash, scabs or body fluids containing the virus, such as that which occurs during sexual activity. Fortunately, vaccination for mpox is safe and effective. Two doses of vaccine can significantly decrease the chance of infection and prevent the risk of serious illness. Those who are already fully vaccinated with two doses do not need to receive additional mpox vaccine.

“The JYNNEOS vaccine is an important tool to prevent mpox infection, particularly after receiving two doses, as recommended,” said Jayne Griffith, lead epidemiologist for surveillance at MDH. “Minnesota has an ample supply of the vaccine, and we encourage those at elevated risk to get both doses.”

People can lower their risk of getting mpox by avoiding close, physical contact with those who have mpox symptoms or who have recently been in close contact with someone with mpox. Anyone can get mpox, but those at elevated risk include anyone in close contact with a person with mpox. Additionally, national data shows that gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men continue to be disproportionately impacted.

With the summer months ahead and the increase of travel and gatherings that bring people together, health officials anticipate a possible increase in cases nationally. MDH has been working with local health care providers and community partners, including Hennepin County Public Health, to increase awareness about the importance of vaccine, how to access vaccine, what symptoms to look for and how to get tested for the virus. Outreach efforts include social media messages, distributing flyers and posters, and developing educational materials for partners.

MDH also has been working with Hennepin County Public Health and other community partners to help promote and offer vaccinations at a variety of summer events.

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If you do develop symptoms of mpox, call your doctor, because early recognition testing and treatment can help prevent further transmission. While testing is widely available through health care providers, it is only recommended in situations where a person has symptoms. Mpox symptoms commonly include a rash that can look like pimples. They can appear anywhere on the body, often causing blisters on the genitals. The rash may look similar to rashes associated with syphilis or herpes, particularly when present in the genital area. Other symptoms of mpox can include fever, chills and headaches. Health officials advise talking to a health care provider if you have a new rash or other concerning symptoms.

People with mpox are sick for about two to four weeks and can spread the virus from the time shortly before symptoms start until their rash is completely healed, meaning until the scabs fall off and new skin appears. Most people with mpox get better without needing significant medical treatment, but sometimes mpox can cause scars from the sores, lead to pneumonia and, in rare cases, can be fatal. Some patients — including those with severe illness or those at risk for severe illness, such as those with immune compromising conditions — may benefit from antiviral treatment and should discuss their infection with their health care provider.