Mpox (also known as "monkeypox" or "MPV") is a rare, but potentially serious viral illness that can be transmitted from person to person through direct contact with bodily fluids or mpox lesions/rash.
While the current level of mpox activity in the United States is higher than what we normally see, the risk to the general population is low. People with mpox in the current outbreak generally report having close, sustained physical contact with other people who have mpox. It's important to be aware of the signs of mpox and contact a health care provider ASAP if you are exposed or have symptoms.
While anyone can catch mpox if they have close contact with someone who has mpox, many of those affected in the current outbreaks are gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men.
How is mpox spread?
Mpox can be spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including:
This direct contact can happen during intimate contact, including:
- Oral, anal, or vaginal sex, or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus of a person with mpox
- Hugging, massage, and kissing
- Prolonged face-to-face contact
The risk is considered low for getting mpox by touching objects, fabrics, and surfaces that have been used by someone with mpox and not disinfected (such as clothing, bedding, towels, fetish gear, or sex toys).
Mpox 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.
Mpox can also be spread from animals to people. The most common route for transmission of mpox from infected animals to people is direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, crusts or fluids from sores, saliva, or infected bodily fluids. Urine and feces that contain infectious viral particles may also be a source of infection. It is possible that people with mpox can spread it to animals through close contact, including petting, cuddling, hugging, kissing, licking, sharing sleeping areas, and sharing food.
How long after exposure to mpox do symptoms begin?
The incubation period (time from infection to having symptoms) for mpox is 3-17 days.
What are the symptoms of mpox?
Mpox can look different in different stages. People with mpox 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 mpox?
Mpox can be serious, though most cases resolve on their own. The type of mpox 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 mpox?
There is no specific treatment for mpox, 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 mpox. Vaccines can be given to prevent illness. If someone has already been exposed, getting a mpox 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 mpox 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. Mpox 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 mpox?
Healthcare providers cannot always know for sure if a rash is mpox 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 mpox, such as a syphilis test.
You must have a rash or sores to get a mpox test. The mpox 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 mpox testing. A preliminary lab test result should be available in a few days.
See our fact sheet on what to do while waiting for mpox text results here.
What should I do if I'm diagnosed with mpox?
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 mpox.
How can mpox be prevented?
Learn about mpox prevention here.