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Mpox FAQ

What is the history of the mpox virus?

Mpox virus has typically been found in west or central Africa. The first human case of mpox was recorded in 1970. Since then, mpox has been reported in people in several other central and western African countries. Prior to the 2022 outbreak, nearly all mpox cases outside of Africa were linked to international travel to countries where the disease commonly occurs or through imported animals. However, the majority of cases in 2022 that are outside of Africa are being identified in many countries throughout the world and primarily involve men who have sex with men.

How do you get mpox?

Human to human transmission can result from:

  • 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 were in contact with the infectious rash or body fluids
  • pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta

At this time, it is not known if mpox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids. This disease is not like COVID-19 and does not spread easily. Simply walking by someone who is infected will not result in transmission.

How long does it take to get symptoms after an exposure?

After exposure, it generally takes from six to 13 days but can range from five to 21 days.

Who can get mpox?

Anyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, can get mpox if they have close contact with someone infected with the virus. At this time, the risk of infection to the public is low. Mpox infection can be more serious in those with weakened immune systems, certain types of skin conditions (presence of atopic dermatitis or other active exfoliative skin conditions), pregnant women and young children.

Who is the 2022 outbreak of mpox impacting?

Anyone can get mpox. A lot of close contact with other people – skin-to-skin or face-to-face – can increase your risk. You can lower your risk by limiting your direct physical contact between yourself and others in crowded situations. Early data suggests that those in close, sexual networks (i.e., gay, bisexual and other same gender loving men) make up the majority of cases. However, anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has mpox is at risk.

What are the signs and symptoms of mpox?

Typically, the first symptoms of mpox begin with fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and enlarged lymph nodes. Shortly after initial onset of symptoms, a rash then typically appears on the body and progresses through various stages. The rash can look like pimples or blisters that appear on the face, inside the mouth or other areas of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, and anus. Lesions are often described as painful until the healing phase when they become itchy. In most cases, this is a mild illness and lasts 2-4 weeks. In the 2022 outbreak, the only symptom for some people is a rash.

Is there a treatment for mpox?

Most people recover without needing a specific treatment. However, there is an antiviral drug called TPOXX that can be given to people who are more likely to get severely ill, like patients with weakened immune systems, or persons with severe disease (e.g., hemorrhagic disease, sepsis, encephalitis, or confluent lesions). Treatment is ordered from the Strategic National Stockpile through state and local health departments.

Is there a test for mpox if I have symptoms?

If a health care provider suspects mpox, swabs can be taken from the lesions to verify whether it is indeed mpox. Not everyone with a rash will need to be tested for mpox because there are many other causes of rash illness.

How can I get tested for mpox if I have symptoms?

There are a lot of causes for rash illness besides mpox. If you have a rash illness with or without accompanying symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and/or enlarged lymph nodes, it is advised that you contact your medical provider. 

If I have mpox or suspect I may have mpox how should I protect others?

If you suspect you have mpox seek medical attention and isolate from others until you see your health care provider. If you are being tested for mpox, isolate from others until test results are back. If you test positive for mpox, you should remain in isolation from others, including your pets, until the all the lesions have scabbed over and new skin has formed. Avoid any other person handling your linens, clothes or towels and avoid sharing utensils or bathrooms until you are no longer infectious.

How can I get a vaccine for mpox?

Currently, the mpox vaccine, JYNNEOS, is available in limited supplies to states and cities with a high case burden. Individuals who live in high case burden areas in Illinois can talk with their local health department about vaccine availability.

CDC does not recommend widespread vaccination against mpox at this time. However, vaccination may be recommended for some people who:

  • Are close personal contacts of people with mpox
  • May have been exposed to the virus
  • May have increased risk of being exposed to the virus, such as people who perform laboratory testing to diagnose mpox

How long is a person infectious when they have mpox?

Persons become infectious when their first symptoms appear and through the time when all sores have healed, and a fresh layer of skin has formed. This can be 2-4 weeks.

What steps can I take to prevent getting mpox?

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with the mpox rash.
    • Do not touch the rash or scabs of person with mpox.
    • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with mpox.
    • Do not share eating utensils or cups.
  • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a sick person.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after contact with sick people.
  • In central and west Africa, avoid contact with animals that can spread mpox virus, usually rodents and non-human primates. Also, avoid sick or dead animals, as well as bedding or other materials they have touched.

How does this outbreak differ from the 2003 mpox outbreak?

In 2003, forty-seven confirmed and probable cases of mpox were reported from six states—Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. All people infected with mpox in this outbreak became ill after having contact with pet prairie dogs. The pets were infected after being housed near imported small mammals from Ghana. This was the first time that human mpox was reported outside of Africa.