Monkeypox in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Warning - Level 3, Avoid Nonessential Travel
Alert - Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions
Watch - Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions

Key points

  • There is an ongoing outbreak of monkeypox in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
  • Infected animals such as rodents and primates can spread the virus to people (or other animals) when they bite or scratch. A person can also become infected by touching infected animals or from touching products that come from infected animals, including meat.
  • People infected with monkeypox can spread the virus to others through the air when they cough, sneeze, or talk. The body fluids and skin sores of a person infected with monkeypox are also infectious.
  • Travelers to the DRC can protect themselves from monkeypox by washing their hands often with soap and water and avoiding contact with wild animals and products made from wild animals. Travelers should also avoid contact with people who are sick.
What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by a virus. Monkeypox occurs throughout remote parts of Central and West Africa, often near tropical rain forests. People become infected with the monkeypox virus through contact with infected animals or humans (alive or dead) or with materials contaminated with the virus. Fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and exhaustion are followed by a rash. Patients are usually ill for 2–4 weeks. Monkeypox is fatal in as many as 10% of people who get it.

What is the current situation?

Monkeypox is an ongoing risk in the DRC; currently there is an outbreak of monkeypox there.

What can travelers do to protect themselves?

If you are going to an area with monkeypox, you can protect yourself against infection by

  • Washing hands often with soap and water
  • Not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Making sure your hands are clean if you do.
  • Avoiding contact with
    • People who are sick
    • Materials (such as bedding) that have been in contact with a sick person or an animal
    • Wild animals (alive or dead) and any products that come from those animals, including meat

If you feel sick and think you may have monkeypox

  • Stay home. Except for seeking medical care, avoid contact with others.
  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell the doctor about your recent travel and your symptoms. 
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.

Clinician Information

When a patient presents to a health care facility with fever and vesicular or pustular rash, a combination of standard, contact, and airborne infection control precautions should be applied. If an airborne infection isolation room is not available, place the patient in a private room with the door closed. If you suspect monkeypox in a patient with an appropriate travel history, notify infection control personnel and your local health department immediately.

This notice was originally posted January 2, 2020.