Mpox: Frequently Asked Questions
What is Mpox (monkeypox)?
Mpox (formally known as monkeypox) is a viral infection that causes a skin rash that can look like pimples or blisters. The first human case was recorded in 1970. Most cases prior to the current 2022 global outbreak occurred in people in Central and West Africa who had contact with small mammals like monkeys, squirrels, and mice.
How it Spreads
How does Mpox spread?
Mpox can spread to anyone through close and personal (often skin-to-skin) contact, including:
- Direct contact, including during a sexual encounter, with Mpox rash, scabs, or bodily fluids from a person with Mpox
- Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with Mpox
- Contact with fluid from the nose, mouth, throat, or lungs during prolonged face-to-face contact
- From a pregnant person to their fetus through the placenta
Who is at risk for Mpox?
At this time, the risk of mpox in the US is slow. Mpox spreads primarily through close contact. People who do not have mpox symptoms are not considered infectious.
In this current outbreak, many of the cases are among social networks of people who self-identify as gay or bisexual and other men who have sex with men.
Those who may be more likely to get seriously ill if they acquire mpox include:
- People with weakened immune systems
- Children under 8 years of age
- People with a history of skin conditions (ex: eczema)
- People who are pregnant or breastfeeding
Anyone who comes in close contact with a person who has Mpox is at risk of contracting the disease. In fact, any mammal can contract Mpox, so it is advised to also stay away from pets if you might be infected. People who do not have symptoms of Mpox cannot spread the disease.
How can I reduce my risk of exposure to Mpox?
- Avoid close contact with people who are infected with Mpox or their personal belongings (e.g., bedding, laundry).
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
- Wear a mask and gloves or other protection when caring for someone who has Mpox or symptoms of the disease.
- Having multiple or anonymous sex partners increases your chances of exposure to Mpox. Limiting your number of sex partners reduces your risk of exposure.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
What are the signs and symptoms of Mpox?
The first symptoms of mpox usually include:
- muscle aches
- sore throat
- swollen lymph nodes
A few days after the start of these symptoms, a skin rash or skin spots appear. It often starts as flat reddish areas on the skin, then develop into raised bumps. These bumps become filled with clear liquid, which changes to pus-filled, white bumps. The skin rash becomes crusty and forms scabs, which eventually fall off. the rash may affect only one area of the body, or it might spread across multiple parts of a person's body.
- Symptoms may be different for different people.
- Symptoms are often mild.
- The rash and flu-like symptoms may cause moderate discomfort. In rare cases, a more severe illness can occur that might require hospitalization. Symptoms usually appear 1-2 weeks after infection.
How is Mpox diagnosed?
A provider swabs a blister or skin lesion to collect a sample. A laboratory uses the sample to diagnose Mpox through special testing.
How long are people with Mpox contagious?
People with Mpox are contagious until all skin lesions have scabbed over and fallen off a person's skin. The illness usually lasts for 2-4 weeks.
I was exposed to Mpox. What should I do?
Contact UHS General Medicine (617-287-5660) if you think you've been exposed. You may be eligible for a vaccination. Your provider will need to perform a risk and exposure assessment.
As long as you do not have symptoms, you do not need to quarantine after you have been exposed. However, you should monitor yourself for symptoms for 21 days after exposure:
- If you feel sick or feverish (have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, chills, rash, or enlarged lymph nodes), immediately self-isolate and contact UHS or your off-campus provider immediately.
- If you do not have any symptoms, you may continue routine daily activities like going to work or school. However, you should not donate blood, cells, tissue, breast milk, or semen during the 21-day monitoring period.
How soon after exposure do symptoms appear?
Symptoms usually appear within 7-14 days after exposure, with a range of 5-21 days.
Is there a vaccine? Who is eligible?
The JYNNEOS vaccine (also known as Imvamune or Imvanex) is available to people who live or work in Massachusetts and meet the current eligibility criteria.
There are many locations where patients can make their own vaccine appointment.
What is the treatment for Mpox?
Many people infected with the Mpox virus have a mild disease that does not require treatment. There are no treatments specifically approved for Mpox virus infections, but there are clinical trials testing drugs that might work. If you become infected with Mpox, you may be referred to a clinical trial.
If I test positive, how long do I need to isolate?
Isolation should continue until all lesions have resolved, the scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed. This will be determined by your healthcare provider and public health authorities.