About Monkeypox (MPOX)

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Text COSD MONKEYPOX to 468-311.

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TRANSMISSION

MPOX spreads  between people primarily through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids. It also can be spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or contaminated clothing, bedding, or towels (i.e., via fomites). MPOX can spread during intimate contact between people, including during sex, as well as activities like kissing, cuddling, or touching parts of the body with MPOX sores.

If you think you have the MPOX rash and want to get tested or have any health concerns, please contact your healthcare provider. If you do not have a healthcare provider, call 2-1-1 San Diego for information.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

In humans, the symptoms of MPOX are similar to but milder than, the signs and symptoms of smallpox.

MPOX symptoms begin with: 

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever/Chills
  • Exhaustion 
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Headache
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g., sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)

Within 1 to 3 days (sometimes longer) after the appearance of fever, a rash develops, often beginning on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body (like the extremities and genital areas).

The incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) for MPOX is usually 7-14 days but can range from 5-21 days. The illness typically lasts for 2-4 weeks. 

symptoms
Photo Credit: NHS England High Consequence Infectious Disease Network

Anyone who has symptoms of MPOX, such as unusual rashes or lesions, should contact a healthcare provider right away. 

Painful lesions progress through the following stages before falling off:

  • Macules (flat, discolored areas of skin)
  • Papules (solid or cystic raised spot on the skin that is less than 1 centimeter wide).  
  • Vesicles (small fluid-filled blisters on the skin)
  • Pustules (small, inflamed, pus-filled, blister-like sores on the skin)
  • Scabs

TREATMENT

  • Most people get well from MPOX without needing any medicines or other treatment. 
  • Vaccination is not a treatment for MPOX. If you test positive, you are not a candidate for vaccination, but there are other treatment options. 
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Tecovirimat (TPOXX or ST-246) as a treatment for MPOX, and it is available from healthcare providers. 
  • There are other options to help control outbreaks of MPOX. To learn more about the other treatment options, visit the CDC MPOX | Treatment webpage.
  • Always consult your healthcare provider before seeking or using any medical treatment.

EXPOSURE

If you are exposed to MPOX:
  • Continue daily routine activities (e.g., work, school).
  • Monitor for signs and symptoms for 21 days.
  • If you develop symptoms:
    • Self-isolate at home, including from pets.
    • Contact your healthcare provider to get tested when you have a rash
    • Inform close contact(s). Visit www.tellyourpartner.org for anonymous partner notification. 
  • Get vaccinated within the first 14 days after exposure, or if notified by the Health Department.

PREVENTION

To prevent the spread of MPOX:

  • Talk to your sexual partner(s) about any recent illness and be aware of new or unexplained sores or rashes on your body, or your partner’s body.
  • Avoid close contact, including sex, with people with symptoms like sores or rashes. listed above, consider getting vaccinated.
  • Practice good hand hygiene.
  • People who become infected should isolate until their symptoms improve or have gone away completely (may take 2-4 weeks). Rash should always be well covered until completely healed.
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), like a mask, gown, and gloves, when caring for others with symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with infected materials contaminated with the virus.
  • Avoid contact with animals to prevent spread to pets. 

If you have symptoms of MPOX, contact your healthcare provider. If you do not have a healthcare provider, call 2-1-1 San Diego for information about getting access to a healthcare provider near you.

Read Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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  • What is MPOX?

    MPOX is a rare disease caused by infection with the MPOX virus, which is related to the smallpox virus. While less severe and much less contagious than smallpox, MPOX can be a serious illness. It spreads from infected humans, animals, and materials contaminated with the virus but primarily through close, personal, skin-to-skin contact with people who have MPOX symptoms, such as rash and sores.

  • Is MPOX a new disease?

    No, MPOX is not a new disease. MPOX was first discovered in 1958 in monkeys, hence the name. The first human case of MPOX was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. MPOX is regularly found in west and central African countries. The last U.S. MPOX outbreak in 2003 was due to animal-to-human transmission.  

  • Is MPOX a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?

    While MPOX is not currently classified as an STI, it is transmitted through close physical contact that includes sexual activity. MPOX also spreads through other close physical contact (e.g., hugging, kissing, cuddling), but especially skin-to-skin contact with an infected individual. The MPOX rash may look like an STI and can appear on the genitals.

  • Should I be concerned?

    There is a recent increase in reported cases where MPOX is not commonly seen, like Europe and the United States, including California. While it is good to stay alert about any emerging public health outbreaks, the current risk to the general public of getting MPOX is low.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with state and local health officials to identify people who have been in contact with MPOX. This is to help prevent the spread of disease and to monitor the health of individuals who tested positive for MPOX. It is important to address disease outbreaks while the risk is small to prevent larger outbreaks.

  • Who can get MPOX?

    Anyone can get MPOX after having close physical contact with someone who has the infection, especially coming into direct contact with the rash, sores, and bodily fluids. However, the current risk to the general public is low. Though not exclusively, most recent cases include gay, bisexual, trans, and other men who have sex with men, as well as household contacts.

  • How serious is MPOX?

    MPOX is usually a mild disease with symptoms lasting from 2 to 4 weeks. Certain groups of people may be at higher risk for severe disease. These groups include people with weakened immune systems, children under 8 years of age, people with a history of eczema, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

    Infections with the strain of MPOX virus identified in this outbreak are rarely fatal. Over 99% of people who get this form of disease are likely to survive. Despite this, symptoms can be extremely painful, and people might have infections or permanent scarring resulting from rashes and sores.

  • How long is an infected person contagious?
    • You are able to spread MPOX to other people from the start of your symptoms (like feeling like you have the flu) or the start of a rash until all scabs have fallen off and new skin covers all the MPOX spots.
    • This can take 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Could my pet get MPOX?

    Infected animals (mammals) can spread MPOX to people, and people who are infected can spread MPOX to animals through close contact, including petting, cuddling, hugging, kissing, licking, sharing sleeping areas, and sharing food.

    People with MPOX should avoid contact with animals, including pets,  domestic animals, and wildlife to prevent spreading the virus. People with MPOX should ask another household member or outside friend/family member to care for pets until the person with MPOX is fully recovered.

  • If I had chickenpox, am I protected from MPOX?

    While the chickenpox rash may look similar to a MPX rash, they are not related. Because chickenpox is caused by a virus that is unrelated to MPX, having had chickenpox (varicella) infection or vaccine in the past will not protect you from MPX.

  • What should I do if I have symptoms of MPOX?
    • Take care of yourself and manage your symptoms.
    • Self-isolate at home, including from pets.
    • Wear a mask and cover any rash/lesions if in close contact with other household members.
    • Contact your healthcare provider to get tested if you have any rash/lesions.
    • Get treatment, if needed.
    • Let partner(s) and close contact(s) know you are having symptoms. 
  • What should I do if I received a call from the health department?

    Please answer any calls from the Health Department. Any information that is shared is considered confidential.

  • How do you test for MPOX?
    • You must have a rash with fluid-filled lesions similar to blisters to get an MPOX test.
    • The MPOX test is done on your skin with a swab at a clinic by a health care provider. The swab is rubbed against lesions on your skin, or parts of your rash, and then sent to a specialized lab for MPOX testing. 
    • A lab test result should be available in a few days. While you are waiting, be sure to take steps to care for yourself and others: 
      • Stay home and away from others, including pets.
      • Let partner(s) and close contact(s) know you are having symptoms.
  • Will wearing a condom prevent people from getting MPOX?
    • Condoms can help reduce your chance of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but they are NOT known to reduce the spread of MPOX. 
    • Condoms during sex are an important way to protect yourself and others from HIV and other STIs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis
    • We do not know yet whether condoms reduce the risk of getting or giving someone else MPOX during sex. Do not expect that condoms will reduce your risk of getting MPOX.
    • While we learn more about how the MPOX virus is spread, we want everyone to know that MPOX can be spread during any close physical contact, including sex, or by face-to-face coughing or sneezing, kissing, licking, skin to skin rubbing, or sharing or sex toys, bedding, towels, clothing, or utensils, among other ways.

     

  • How can I reduce my chances of getting MPOX from somebody else?
    • Limit close, skin-to-skin contact with anyone who has a rash that looks like MPOX.
    • Avoid touching rashes/scabs; and contact with objects and materials (e.g., clothing, bedding, and towels) that someone with MPOX has used.
    • Get vaccinated within the first 14 days after exposure, or if notified by the Health Department.
  • How can I stay up-to-date about MPOX?
    • Please continue to visit this website at www.sandiegocounty.gov/monkeypoxsd for information and resources, such as data, vaccine updates, and educational materials for individuals, communities, and healthcare professionals. The number of MPOX cases is updated Monday through Friday by 4:00 pm, and Case Demographics, Testing, Tracing, and Treatment, and Vaccine Request numbers are updated weekly.
    • Sign up for text alerts by texting COSD Monkeypox to 468-311, for updated information about vaccine availability.
  • Is there any assistance available for persons with MPOX?

    If an individual does not have a healthcare provider or is seeking other resources, please call 2-1-1. 

RESOURCES

For more information, contact the Epidemiology Unit at (619) 692-8499 or send us an e-mail.