About Mpox

Page last updated 2/1/2024.

See below, or click the following links, to learn more about:
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Text COSD MPOX to 468-311.

Get text updates about mpox from the County. Text COSD MPOX to 468-311 (phone users: tap here to create the message).

Transmission (Spread)

Mpox can be spread by:

  • Direct skin-to-skin contact with sores, or scabs, of people with mpox, or people that are in the 21-day monitoring period due to previous mpox exposure.
  • Direct contact with bodily fluids of people with mpox, such as drainage from skin sores or saliva that was in contact with mouth sores.
  • Contact with the respiratory secretions of people with mpox, such as saliva, during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sexual activity.
  • Touching items (such as bedding, towels, clothing, cups, and utensils) that previously touched the sores or bodily fluids of people with mpox.

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 
  • General body aches
  • Headache
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g., sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)

Within 1 to 3 days (sometimes longer) after the appearance of fever, most infected people will develop a rash or sores.

  • The sores can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful and itchy.
  • Sores go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
  • The rash or sores may be located on or near the genitals or anus. They can also appear on other areas, like the hands, feet, chest, face, or inside the mouth. They may also be limited to one part of the body. 
symptoms
Photo Credit: NHS England High Consequence Infectious Disease Network

People with mpox may experience all or only a few of these symptoms, with most people developing the rash or sores.

Infectious Period

The estimated incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) ranges from 3 to 21 days. 

A person with mpox can spread it to others from 4 days before the start of symptoms until all sores have healed, scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed underneath. Only people who eventually develop symptoms can spread the mpox virus. 

The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.

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.

Treatment

  • Most people get well from mpox without needing any medicines or other treatment. However, antiviral drugs, such as tecovirimat (TPOXX), may be used to treat mpox. 
    • 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. 
    • This drug is recommended for people who are more likely to become severely ill or are experiencing severe illness. It may also be recommended for people who have a rash or sores in areas that are at higher risk for severe complications, such as the eyes or genital area.
  • Vaccination is not a treatment for mpox; it is prevention! If you test positive, you are not a candidate for vaccination, but there are other treatment options. 
  • 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, and avoid sexual contact with others, for 21 days is highly recommended.
  • 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:

  • Get vaccinated.
  • Talk to your sexual partner(s) about any recent illness or symptoms, any possible exposures to mpox, and be aware of new or unexplained sores or rashes on your body, or your partner’s body.
  • Avoid close contact, including hugging, kissing, cuddling, and sexual activity, with people who have symptoms, like sores or rashes, and people who were exposed and are in their 21 days monitoring period. 
  • Practice good hand hygiene.
  • Isolate, if you become infected, until symptoms improve or have gone away completely (may take 2-4 weeks). 
    • Rash should always be well covered until completely healed.
    • Contact your healthcare provider to get examined and tested, if needed.
  • 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 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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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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)?

    Sex is just one of the ways that the virus can spread. Mpox primarily spreads from skin-to-skin contact, especially close or intimate physical contact such as sex or touching rashes. Mpox can also spread through contact with contaminated materials like utensils, cups, bedding, towels, clothing, or sex toys.

    Mpox may look like STIs that cause a rash on the genitals and anus, including herpes and syphilis. Mpox may also cause rectal pain and can be seen in other STIs as well. It is always important to talk to a healthcare provider as soon as you notice unusual rashes or sores, or have rectal pain.

  • 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?
    • A person with mpox can spread it to others from 4 days before the start of symptoms until all sores have healed, scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed underneath. Only people who eventually develop symptoms can spread the mpox virus. 
    • The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. 
  • Could a 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 mpox rash, they are not related. Because chickenpox is caused by a virus that is unrelated to mpox, having had chickenpox (varicella) infection or vaccine in the past will not protect you from mpox

  • 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.