Information & Guidance
Mpox (monkeypox) is a rare disease that is caused by infection with the mpox virus. Most cases resolve on their own, though they can be serious. The illness often begins with flu-like symptoms before the emergence of a rash and may last for 2 to 4 weeks. While it’s good to stay alert about any emerging public health outbreaks, the current risk of getting mpox in the general public is very low.
Mpox might start with symptoms like the flu, with fever, low energy, swollen lymph nodes, and general body aches. Within 1 to 3 days (sometimes longer) after the appearance of fever, the person can develop a rash or sores. The sores can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful and itchy.
People with mpox get a rash that may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus and could be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.
- 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 through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids, and during sex, as well as activities like kissing, hugging, massaging, and cuddling. Mpox can spread through touching materials used by a person with mpox that haven’t been cleaned, such as clothing and bedding. It can also spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, close, face-to-face contact.
Mpox can be spread through:
- Direct skin-to-skin contact with rash lesions
- Sexual/intimate contact, including kissing
- Living in a house and sharing a bed with someone
- Sharing towels or unwashed clothing
- Respiratory secretions through prolonged face-to-face interactions (the type that mainly happen when living with someone or caring for someone who has mpox)
Mpox is NOT spread through:
- Casual brief conversations
- Walking by someone with mpox, like in a grocery store
A person with mpox can spread it to others from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.
Unlike COVID-19 which spreads easily through the air, the risk of mpox to the general public is currently low unless they engage in higher-risk behaviors. Having sex with multiple sex partners can increase a person’s risk of becoming infected when mpox is spreading in the community. For more information visit Safer sex, Social Gathering, and Mpox from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There are several ways to prevent the spread of mpox, including:
- Always talk to your sexual partner/s about any recent illness and be aware of new or unexplained sores or rashes on your body or your partner’s body, including on the genitals and anus
- Avoiding close contact, including sex, with people with symptoms like sores or rashes
- Practicing good hand hygiene
- People who become infected should isolate until their symptoms are improving or have gone away completely. The rash should always be well-covered until completely healed
- Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) (like a mask, gown, and gloves) when caring for others with symptoms
- Avoid contact with infected materials contaminated with the virus
- Avoid contact with infected animals
How to protect others
If you have symptoms, particularly a rash consistent with mpox, or if you have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with mpox:
- Stay home if you are feeling sick
- If you have a new or unexplained rash or other symptoms, seek medical care for further testing and evaluation
- Contact a health care provider as soon as possible for an evaluation
- Avoid skin-to-skin, or close contact with others, including sexual contact, until a medical evaluation has been completed
- Inform sex partners about any symptoms you are experiencing
- Cover the rash with clean, dry, loose-fitting clothing
- Wear a well-fitted mask
- If you are contacted by public health officials, answer their confidential questions to help protect others who may have been exposed
There are no treatments specifically for mpox virus infections. However, mpox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, which means that antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent and treat mpox virus infections.
Antivirals, such as tecovirimat (TPOXX), may be recommended for people who are more likely to get severely ill, like patients with weakened immune systems.
If you have symptoms of mpox, you should talk to your health care provider, even if you don’t think you had contact with someone who has mpox. Your provider may be able to offer treatments that are not specific to mpox, but may help to reduce your symptoms, like prescribed mouth rinses, stool softeners for those with rectal pain, or topical gels or creams.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommend that people who have been exposed to mpox and people with certain risk factors should receive the vaccine to prevent them from developing the disease.
SMC Health is offering weekly clinics on Thursdays. Check MyTurn for available appointments.
Kaiser, Stanford Health, Ravenswood Family Health Center, and Palo Alto Medical Foundation are also able to vaccinate their patients/members.
Vaccines are not recommended for people who have mpox.