MPOX (also known as monkeypox) is a rare illness that began spreading in the United States starting in Spring 2022. While MPOX has to date primarily been spreading through the gay and bisexual male, men who have sex with men (MSM), and transgender communities, it is important to remember that anyone can still contract MPOX. To keep yourself & the community safe, it is good to recognize the signs and symptoms of MPOX and how to avoid it.
How it Spreads
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MPOX is spread predominantly through:
Touching and Intimate Contact: MPOX can spread through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact (e.g., hugging, kissing, sexual activity) including:
- Direct contact with MPOX rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with symptoms of MPOX.
- Oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals or anus of a person with symptoms of MPOX.
- Contact with respiratory secretions.
Sharing Contaminated Items: MPOX can be spread through sharing items used by someone with symptoms of MPOX or a rash, scabs, or body fluids including:
- Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, towels), and surfaces infected with MPOX.
- Touching fabrics & objects during sex that were used by a person with MPOX and that have not been disinfected, such as bedding, towels, fetish gear, and sex toys.
Signs & Symptoms
NOTE: Symptoms of MPOX may take anywhere from 5 to 21 days to appear after exposure to the virus.
RASH: According to the CDC, people with MPOX generally get a rash that may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus and might also appear on other areas of the body including hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.
- The rash will progress through multiple stages, including painful scabs, before fully healing.
- The rash can initially look like painful or itchy pimples or blisters.
Tips for Prevention
The CDC recommends taking the following steps to avoid getting MPOX:
1. Avoid intimate & skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that may be MPOX:
- DO NOT touch the rash or scabs of a person with MPOX.
- DO NOT kiss, hug, cuddle, or have sexual contact with anyone who has or may have MPOX.
2. Avoid contact with objects and materials that have been used by a person with MPOX.
- DO NOT share eating utensils, cups, or other items with a person with MPOX.
- DO NOT handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with MPOX.
3. WASH YOUR HANDS OFTEN!
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer – especially after using the bathroom and before eating or touching your face.
Testing & Treatment
When to get tested:
- Currently, testing is only recommended if you have symptoms of MPOX rash or open sores.
- If you think you have MPOX or might have had close contact with someone with MPOX, consider taking precautions and visit a healthcare provider to help decide if MPOX testing is right for you.
Where to get tested:
- Only healthcare providers are able to order MPOX tests. The provider may collect a specimen to send to a lab for testing or have you submit a specimen for testing at an authorized lab in your area.
- For more information, contact your local health department with any questions and determine what testing options are available in your area.
How to seek treatment:
- Currently, there is no FDA-approved treatment for MPOX. However, because MPOX and smallpox behave similarly, antiviral drugs (including TPOXX) have been shown to help alleviate MPOX symptoms.
- TPOXX is currently only being administered to individuals with severe symptoms or with autoimmunine disorders such as HIV/AIDS or skin conditions such as eczema.
- Speak to your healthcare provider directly about possible TPOXX treatment if you have MPOX symptoms.
Info About Vaccines
IMPORTANT: Getting vaccinated before exposure provides the best chance to prevent getting MPOX!
Currently in the U.S., there are two vaccines approved to prevent the spread of MPOX: Jynneos and ACAM2000
The CDC recommends you should get vaccinated if:
1. You think you have already had exposure to MPOX.
- You have been identified as a close contact of someone with MPOX.
- You learn that one of your sex partners in the past 2 weeks has been diagnosed with MPOX.
- You are a man who has had sex with other men, or if you are a trans or nonbinary person, and in the past 2 weeks you have had sex with multiple partners or group sex, at a commercial sex venue (like a sex club or bathhouse) or at an event, venue, or area where MPOX transmission could occur.
2. You think you might be exposed to MPOX by any of the above criteria in the future.
Where to get vaccinated:
Info on vaccine availability in your area can be found by contacting your local health department or by visiting the Mpox Vaccine Locator to search for vaccine availability by your zip code.
NOTE: For best protection, 2 doses of vaccine spaced 28 days apart are recommended!