Monkeypox is a rare viral illness that has not often been seen in the United States, although sporadic outbreaks have occurred in the past. It can cause a rash that looks like bumps, blisters, or ulcers. Some people have flu-like illness before the rash develops. Most people recover in 2–4 weeks, but the disease can be serious, especially for children and people who are immune compromised or pregnant.
How monkeypox is spread
Monkeypox can spread between people through close physical contact (skin-to-skin), including sexual contact, with a person who has monkeypox or contact with objects that have been used by a person with monkeypox.
Anyone can be infected with monkeypox if they have close physical contact with someone who has monkeypox, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. However, many of those affected in the current global outbreak are among gay and bisexual men, or other people assigned male at birth who have sex with men, including non-binary, genderqueer and/or transgender people.
Routes of transmission include:
- Direct physical contact with monkeypox rash, sores, or scabs from a person with monkeypox; CDC believes this is currently the most common way that monkeypox is spreading in the U.S.
- Kissing or other prolonged face-to-face contact due to respiratory droplets or oral fluids (i.e., saliva)
- During sex through skin-to-skin and other intimate sexual contact
- Contact with objects, fabrics (e.g., clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox is possible
Signs and symptoms of monkeypox
The illness can begin with flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, back and muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and general exhaustion, followed by a rash (usually painful) that can look like pimples or blisters.
- Symptoms usually start within 2 weeks of exposure to the virus but symptom onset can occur up to 3 weeks later.
- Within 1-3 days of symptoms beginning, people usually develop a rash or sores.
- The rash or sores may appear like a sexually transmitted infection, especially if the rash or sores are located around the genitals or anus. The rash or sores may appear on or near the genitals or anus, but sometimes appear in other areas, such as the hands, feet, chest, face, or in the mouth.
- Sores often go through several stages before healing, which takes about 3 weeks.
- An individual is considered contagious once symptoms appear; they remain contagious until all sores have healed, a new layer of skin is formed, and scabs have fallen off.