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 spreads in different ways. The virus can spread from person-to-person through:
- direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
- respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
- touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
- pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta
It’s also possible for people to get monkeypox from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal.
Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. People who do not have monkeypox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others. At this time, it is not known if monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids.
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.
Click here for fact sheet for people who are sexually active.
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?
Symptoms of monkeypox can include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
- A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.
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 are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections. However, monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, which means that antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections.
Antivirals, such as tecovirimat (TPOXX), may be recommended for people who are more likely to get severely ill, like patients with weakened immune systems.
If you have symptoms of monkeypox, you should talk to your healthcare provider, even if you don’t think you had contact with someone who has monkeypox.
Are there vaccines for monkeypox?
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.
Vaccine supplies are currently very limited in Michigan. Because of this, vaccines are prioritized for those who have been exposed and those who meet certain priority criteria. Click here for considerations for monkeypox vaccinations.
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. Monkeypox testing is available through local health care providers.
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.
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.
How can monkeypox be prevented?
Take the following steps to prevent getting monkeypox:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox.
- Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox.
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Michigan Department of Health & Human Services
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Monkeypox 2022 response webpage
- Fact sheet on social gatherings, safer sex, and monkeypox
- World Health Organization (WHO) - Monkeypox webpage (with multiple languages)