Information & Guidance
Mpox is a rare disease caused by infection with the mpox virus. Mpox virus is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Mpox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and mpox is rarely fatal. Mpox is not related to chickenpox.
People with mpox often get a rash that may be located on hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth or near the genitals, including penis, testicles, labia, and vagina, and anus. The incubation period is 3-17 days. During this time, a person does not have symptoms and may feel fine. Mpox symptoms usually start within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus. If someone has flu-like symptoms, they will usually develop a rash 1-4 days later.
- The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
- The rash can initially look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.
Other symptoms of mpox can include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle aches and backache
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
- You may experience all or only a few symptoms
- Sometimes, people have flu-like symptoms before the rash
- Some people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms
- Others only experience a rash
Testing is ordered by physicians based on an assessment of symptoms. Contact your health care provider if you have symptoms.
Mpox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including:
- Direct contact with mpox rash and scabs from a person with mpox, as well as contact with their saliva, upper respiratory secretions (snot, mucus), and areas around the anus, rectum, or vagina
- Oral, anal, or vaginal sex, or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus of a person with mpox
- Hugging, massage, and kissing
- Prolonged face-to-face contact
The CDC mpox website has the most up-to-date information on transmission
These steps can help you protect yourself from getting pox:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like mpox.
- Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with mpox has used.
- Wash your hands often.
- Get vaccinated!
- See these CDC guidelines regarding safer sex, social gatherings and mpox
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccination against mpox if:
- You had known or suspected exposure to someone with mpox
- You had a sex partner in the past 2 weeks who was diagnosed with mpox
- Yare a gay, bisexual, or other man who has sex with men or a
transgender, nonbinary, or gender-diverse person who in the past
6 months has had any of the following:
- A new diagnosis of one or more sexually transmitted diseases (e.g., chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis)
- More than one sex partner
- You have had any of the following in the past 6 months:
- Sex at a commercial sex venue (like a sex club or bathhouse)
- Sex related to a large commercial event or in a geographic area (city or county for example) where mpox virus transmission is occurring
- Sex in exchange for money or other items
- You have a sex partner with any of the above risks
- You anticipate experiencing any of the above scenarios
- You have HIV or other causes of immune suppression and have had recent or anticipate future risk of mpox exposure from any of the above scenarios
For more information on mpox vaccines view the CDC mpox Vaccination Basics page.
Where Can I get an mpox Vaccine?
- Contact your primary medical provider or your sexual health provider to request the mpox vaccine
- California Department of Public Health’s Online Vaccination Portal
- San Mateo County Health’s Edison STD Clinic (by appointment only and limited appointments)
- Alameda County
- Contra Costa County
- San Francisco City and County
- Santa Clara County