Monkeypox Treatment Guide: How to Get Vaccinated, Tested and Treated

The test is a polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., much like those for Covid-19 that detect a piece of the virus’s genetic material. But testing capacity is still limited. Samples can be sent only to a public health laboratory or one of five commercial labs for analysis. And although the turnaround time has improved, results can take anywhere from 24 hours to three days or more.

There is no home test for monkeypox. And even at a clinic, health care workers need a lesion to swab in order to perform a monkeypox test, said Dr. William Morice, the chair of the department of lab medicine and pathology at Mayo Clinic and president of Mayo Clinic Laboratories, which is one of the five commercial laboratories using the C.D.C.’s orthopoxvirus test. If you don’t have any symptoms, or have only fever and flulike symptoms, there is no way to test for monkeypox yet, Dr. Morice said.

Another problem is that some health care workers may not be aware of or able to recognize monkeypox when patients come in for a diagnosis. Monkeypox lesions, especially in genital areas, may look very similar to symptoms of more common diseases, like herpes or syphilis.

“If a lesion looks like it could be monkeypox, people should just test it,” said Dr. Bernard Camins, the medical director for infection prevention at the Mount Sinai Health System.

Lastly, some health care workers may be unsure of how contagious the lesions are. “I’m hearing anecdotal reports of patients being turned away,” Dr. Camins said. “People have not seen this disease before, you know, and there’s just the fear of the unknown. But health care transmission of monkeypox is so rare that health care workers should not worry about getting monkeypox at work as long as they wear the appropriate personal protective equipment.”

After you get a diagnosis, monkeypox treatment mainly involves managing symptoms, Dr. Camins said. Patients with anal or rectal lesions may experience a lot of pain, especially while defecating, and in those cases a doctor may prescribe pain killers or recommend stool softeners and shallow sitz baths, used to relieve pain or itchiness in the genital area, he said. Patients with sores in their mouth may have difficulty swallowing and can get medication to help with that. Some may develop secondary bacterial infections and require antibiotic treatment, especially if they have large, open lesions.