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Condition Basics

What is mpox?

Mpox (formerly known as monkeypox) is a disease caused by a virus. If you have it, you may get a painful rash along with other symptoms. Mpox is from the same family of viruses as smallpox. They have similar symptoms, but mpox symptoms are milder. It rarely causes death. Mpox isn't related to chickenpox.

How does it spread?

Mpox is spread through close contact with an infected person or animal.

You may get mpox if you:

  • Kiss, cuddle with, or have sex with someone who has it.
  • Touch the rash, scabs, or bodily fluids of someone who has it.
  • Touch items used by someone who has it, including towels, bedding, and clothing.
  • Are bitten or scratched by an animal with mpox.
  • Eat meat or other products from an infected animal.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • A painful rash.
  • A fever.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Feeling very tired.
  • Muscle aches and backache.
  • A headache.
  • Chills.

The rash can show up anywhere on your body, such as on your genitals, anus, face, arms, or legs. A rash can have one bump or many bumps, and it may be painful. At first, the bumps may look like flat spots. Over time, they may look like pimples or pus-filled blisters. The bumps scab over and may be itchy as they heal.

Symptoms often start around 1 to 2 weeks after a person is infected. They usually last 2 to 4 weeks. Some people don't get symptoms.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and may do a physical exam. You may also be asked about travel and if you know anyone who has symptoms. If your doctor suspects that you have mpox, they will swab the rash for testing. They may also check for infections like herpes.

How is mpox treated?

Most cases are treated at home with rest and pain medicines. If you are very sick or more likely to get very sick, your doctor may give you an antiviral medicine. You may also get this medicine if the rash is in a certain spot. In some cases, people are treated in the hospital.

How can you prevent it?

There are some things you can do to avoid getting or spreading mpox.

  • Avoid close contact with people who have symptoms. Try to avoid:
    • Kissing, cuddling, or having sex with them.
    • Touching their rash or scabs from their rash.
    • Touching their bedding, towels, or clothing.
    • Sharing utensils or cups with them.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Talk to your doctor or check with your local health department to see if you should get a vaccine. These are usually only given to people who are at high risk of exposure to mpox. They are also usually given if you were recently exposed.
  • If you think you may have mpox, ask your doctor about getting tested.
  • If you have symptoms, stay home. Cover the rash with clothing or bandages. Wear a mask if you're around others. Avoid close contact with other people and pets until you no longer have symptoms and the rash has healed completely. This can take a month or more.
  • If you're caring for someone who has mpox, wear a mask and gloves. Throw away gloves after use. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • If you're in Central or West Africa, avoid contact with animals that can spread mpox, including rodents and primates.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You think you have mpox. Symptoms may include a painful rash, fever, and swollen lymph nodes.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You were recently exposed to mpox. You may need a vaccine.


Current as of: October 31, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
JoLynn Montgomery PA - Family Medicine

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