Monkeypox ("MPV" or "MPX") is a rare, but potentially serious viral illness that can be transmitted from person to person through direct contact with bodily fluids or monkeypox lesions/rash.

While the current level of monkeypox activity in the United States is higher than what we normally see, the risk to the general population is low. People with monkeypox in the current outbreak generally report having close, sustained physical contact with other people who have monkeypox. It's important to be aware of the signs of monkeypox and contact a health care provider ASAP if you are exposed or have symptoms.

While anyone can catch monkeypox if they have close contact with someone who has monkeypox, many of those affected in the current outbreaks are gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men.

How is monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox can be spread from person to person through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including:

  • Direct contact with monkeypox rash, sores, or scabs
  • Contact with objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox
  • Through respiratory droplets or oral fluids from a person with monkeypox during prolonged face-to-face contact
  • This contact can happen during intimate sexual contact, including:
    • Oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals or anus of a person with monkeypox
    • Hugging, massage, kissing, and talking closely
    • Touching fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with monkeypox, such as bedding, towels, and sex toys

Humans can also get monkeypox from an infected animal through a bite or direct contact with the infected animal's blood, body fluids, or sores.  

Monkeypox is not nearly as contagious at COVID-19. It doesn't spread from casual conversation or simply walking by someone in a store. You need to have prolonged, physical contact or share bedding or clothing with someone who has the virus for it to spread. 

How long after exposure to monkeypox do symptoms begin?

The incubation period (time from infection to having symptoms) for monkeypox is usually 7−14 days but can range from 5−21 days.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Monkeypox can look different in different stages. People with monkeypox may first develop a flu-like illness with fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, and enlarged lymph nodes. A characteristic rash, which can appear like blisters/sores or pimples, occurs a few days later. However, in recent cases, patients have developed localized rashes around the genitals or anus without having flu-like symptoms first. Sores may be in other areas like the hands, feet, chest, or face. Sores may be painful or itchy.

Sores progress through several stages before falling off. The illness typically lasts for 2−4 weeks. A person is considered infectious from when symptoms begin until sores have crusted, those crusts have separated, and a fresh layer of healthy skin has formed underneath. 


How serious is monkeypox?

Monkeypox can be serious, though most cases resolve on their own. The type of monkeypox seen in this current outbreak is rarely fatal, and more than 99% of people who get this form of the disease are likely to survive. 

However, some groups are likely at higher risk of severe illness, including children under age 8, people who have weakened immune systems or are pregnant, and people with history of atopic dermatitis or eczema.

Is there a treatment for monkeypox?

There is no specific treatment for monkeypox, although antivirals for smallpox may be used. Most infections last 2-4 weeks and resolve without specific treatment. 

What about vaccines?

There are vaccines for monkeypox. Vaccines can be given to prevent illness. If someone has already been exposed, getting a monkeypox vaccine within 4 days can prevent the onset of disease. Getting vaccinated between 4-14 days after exposure may reduce symptoms of the disease. 

Learn more about monkeypox vaccines here

What should I do if I'm exposed or have symptoms (like a new, unexplained rash)?

Avoid others (including pets) and contact your health care provider right away. If you don't have insurance or a health care provider, call the Health Department. Monkeypox testing is available through local health care providers. 

See our fact sheet on what to do if you have been exposed here.

How do you test for monkeypox?

Healthcare providers cannot always know for sure if a rash is monkeypox just by looking at it. They will need to do skin swab tests to know for sure. They may also do blood tests for other infections that can look like monkeypox, such as a syphilis test.  

You must have a rash or sores to get a monkeypox test. The monkeypox test is done on your skin with a swab at a clinic or health care provider. The swab is rubbed against sores on your skin, or parts of your rash, and then sent to a specialized lab for monkeypox testing. A preliminary lab test result should be available in a few days.

See our fact sheet on what to do while waiting for monkeypox text results here.

What should I do if I'm diagnosed with monkeypox?

Follow the treatment and prevention recommendations of your healthcare provider. Avoid close contact with anyone until all your sores have healed and you have a fresh layer of skin formed. See our fact sheet on what to do if you test positive here. This fact sheet also includes guidance for keeping any household members safe if someone in the home is diagnosed with monkeypox. 

How can monkeypox be prevented?

Learn about monkeypox prevention here