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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.
  • Spend a long time sitting and talking 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 glands.
  • Feeling very tired.
  • A headache.
  • Chills.
  • A sore throat.
  • A stuffy nose.
  • A cough.

The rash can show up anywhere on your body, such as on your genitals, anus, mouth, 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. The scabs will fall off, and there will be a new layer of skin as the rash heals. This may take a month or more.

Some people don't get symptoms.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and 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 very painful spot. Some people are treated in the hospital.

How can you prevent it?

To avoid getting or spreading mpox, try to:

  • Avoid close contact with people who have symptoms. This includes:
    • Kissing, cuddling, or having sex with them.
    • Spending a long time sitting and talking with them.
    • Touching their rash or scabs from their rash.
    • Touching their bedding, towels, or clothing.
    • Sharing their utensils or cups.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Get the recommended vaccines if you're at risk. Check with your doctor or local health department. You are considered at risk if:
    • You are a gay or bisexual man or a transgender or nonbinary person, and in the past 6 months you have had one of the following:
      • A new diagnosis of a sexually transmitted infection.
      • More than one sex partner.
      • Sex at a place like a sex club, bathhouse, or sex party.
      • Sex at or near a large public event in an area that has a high number of mpox cases.
    • You are a sex partner of someone who has the risks described above.
    • You are someone who expects to experience anything described above.
  • Stay home if you have symptoms. Try to:
    • Cover the rash with clothing or bandages.
    • Wear a mask if you're around others.
    • Wash your clothes, sheets, and towels separately.
    • Cover furniture with sheets or blankets. Wash them as needed.
  • If you're caring for someone who has mpox, wear a mask and gloves. Throw away gloves after use.
  • If you travel to 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.

Related Information


Current as of: June 12, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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