Mpox (formerly known as monkeypox) is a viral infection that causes a skin rash that can look like pimples or blisters. The first human case was recorded in 1970. Most cases prior to the current 2022 global outbreak occurred in people in Central and West Africa who had contact with small mammals like monkeys, squirrels, and mice.
In 2022, an outbreak was found in the United Kingdom. The first case identified in the United States was reported on May 18, 2022. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 110 countries have reported cases of mpox as of December 2022. More than 81,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide. You can learn more about the global outbreak on the CDC map and case tracker.
Mpox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact including:
At this time, the risk of mpox in the United States is low. Mpox spreads primarily through close contact. People who do not have mpox symptoms are not considered infectious.
In this current outbreak, many of the cases are among social networks of people who self-identify as gay or bisexual and other men who have sex with men.
People with weakened immune systems, children under eight years of age, people with a history of skin conditions like eczema, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be more likely to get seriously ill if they acquire mpox.
The first symptoms of mpox usually include fever, headache, exhaustion, muscle aches, sore throat, cough, and swollen lymph nodes. A few days after the start of these symptoms, a skin rash or skin spots appear. The rash changes over time. Symptoms may be different for different people. For example, some people may get a rash first and then show other symptoms. Others may only experience a rash. Symptoms are most often mild. The rash and flu-like symptoms may cause moderate discomfort. In rare cases, a more severe illness can occur that might require hospitalization. Symptoms usually appear one to two weeks after infection.
At first, the rash may start as flat reddish areas on the skin. Then, they develop into raised bumps. These bumps become filled with a clear fluid. These change to pus-filled, white bumps. The skin rash becomes crusty and forms scabs, which eventually fall off. The rash may affect only one area of the body. Or it might spread across multiple parts of a person’s body. The CDC has examples of mpox rashes and blisters on their website.
A provider swabs a blister or skin lesion to collect a sample. A laboratory uses the sample to diagnose mpox through special testing.
People with mpox are contagious until all skin lesions have scabbed over and fallen off a person’s skin. The illness usually lasts for two to four weeks.
Contact your health care provider if you think you’ve been exposed. You may be eligible for vaccination. Your provider will need to perform risk and exposure assessment. They may refer you for vaccination if you meet current CDC criteria for vaccination.
As long as you do not have symptoms, you do not need to quarantine after you have been exposed. However, you should monitor yourself for symptoms.
Monitor your symptoms for 21 days after exposure.
If you feel sick or feverish (have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, chills, rash, or enlarged lymph nodes), immediately self-isolate and contact your provider immediately. In addition, if you have been assigned a public health worker, contact them as well.
If you do not have any symptoms, you may continue routine daily activities like going to work or school. However, you should not donate blood, cells, tissue, breast milk, or semen during the 21-day monitoring period.
Symptoms usually appear within 7-14 days after exposure, with a range of 5-21 days.
The JYNNEOS vaccine (also known as Imvamune or Imvanex) is available to people who live or work in Massachusetts and meet the current eligibility criteria. For information about vaccine access in New Hampshire, please check the New Hampshire Department of Health’s website. If you live in a different state, please check this website with updated mpox vaccine locations.
There are many locations where patients can make their own vaccine appointment. You do not need to be an existing patient to make an appointment. You may need to call multiple clinics before finding one with available appointments.
Many people infected with the mpox virus have a mild disease that does not require treatment. There are no treatments specifically approved for mpox virus infections, but there are clinical trials testing drugs that might work. If you become infected with mpox, you may be referred to this clinical trial.
Isolation should continue until all skin lesions have resolved, the scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed. This will be determined by your health care provider and public health authorities.
It is possible that people who are infected can spread mpox to animals through close contact. People with mpox should avoid contact with animals, including pets, to prevent spreading the virus. It is possible that pets infected with mpox can spread it to other people.
If you have mpox and did not have close contact with pets after symptom onset, ask friends or family members who live in a separate home to care for the animal until you fully recover. After you have recovered, disinfect your home before bringing healthy animals back.
If you have mpox and had close contact with pets after your symptoms started, the pet should be kept at home and away from other animals and people for 21 days after the most recent contact. If possible, infected people should not take care of exposed pets. Another household member should care of the animal until you are fully recovered, if possible.
If you have mpox and must care for your healthy pets during home isolation, wash your hands, or use an alcohol-based hand rub, before and after caring for them. It is also important to cover any skin rash to the best extent possible (i.e. long sleeves, long pants), and wear gloves and a well-fitting mask or respirator while providing care for your animals.