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Here’s what you should know about monkeypox

Independence Blue Cross (Independence) is committed to the health, well-being, and safety of the people and communities we serve. We are closely monitoring the monkeypox outbreak and staying informed of recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and city health departments on how to best treat and prevent the virus.

Independence Senior Vice President of Health Services and Chief Medical Officer Rodrigo Cerdá, M.D., shares more information on monkeypox and how to protect yourself and loved ones.

What is monkeypox?

Dr. Cerdá: According to the CDC, monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. It is part of the same family of viruses that causes smallpox.

How does it spread?

Dr. Cerdá: Monkeypox can spread in a few ways:

  • Through close, direct contact with a rash, scabs, body fluids (blood or semen), and respiratory secretions from a person with monkeypox.
  • By touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
  • From a pregnant person to their fetus through the placenta.

According to the CDC, monkeypox is often transmitted through close, sustained physical contact, which can include sexual contact. The CDC website provides information to help you make informed choices about safer sex, social gatherings, and monkeypox.

In addition, Monkeypox is zoonotic, meaning that it can spread from animals to humans.

What are the symptoms?

Dr. Cerdá: A rash is a distinguishing symptom of monkeypox. The rash may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) and could also be found on the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.

At the start, the rash can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy. The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.

Other monkeypox symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g., sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)

Symptoms usually start within three weeks of exposure to the virus. If you have flu-like symptoms, you may develop a rash one to four days after symptoms begin.

Monkeypox can be spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.

It is important to note that if you or a loved one is experiencing new symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider or public health clinic. In most cases, the symptoms of monkeypox go away on their own within a few weeks.

Is it treatable?

Dr. Cerdá: At this time, there are no treatments specifically approved for monkeypox virus infections.  According to the CDC, antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections.

Independence continues to cover medically necessary health care costs to treat infectious diseases, including monkeypox, based on the terms of the member’s insurance plan and in consideration of any steps taken by the federal government.

Is testing available? Will Independence cover monkeypox testing?

Dr. Cerdá: Yes, a monkeypox virus test is available to determine if a person is infected with the virus that causes monkeypox.

Independence Blue Cross is covering the cost for testing for our members through LabCorp. The test must be ordered by a physician or authorized by a health care professional. At this time, standard member cost-sharing applies for testing.

How can you protect yourself and loved ones?

Dr. Cerdá: There are three main ways to protect yourself from getting monkeypox.

  1. Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
  2. Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.
  3. Continue practicing good hygiene, including washing your hands regularly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after using the bathroom.

Is there a monkeypox vaccine?

Dr. Cerdá: There are two vaccines that may be used for the prevention of monkeypox virus infection. The CDC recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to monkeypox. Some people are also at a higher risk of getting monkeypox, including healthcare, public health, and lab workers.

Vaccine guidelines can be found at

At this time, standard member cost-sharing applies for vaccines.

Can you share some additional resources?

Dr. Cerdá: The CDC and WHO are both excellent sources of information, along with your state or city health department websites:

If you have questions about specific symptoms you are experiencing or about your personal health, please contact your doctor.

We encourage all Independence members to visit regularly for the latest news and updates. We will continue to evaluate member needs as the situation changes.