skip to content, health centers and clinics, search, accessibility statement

Monkeypox - FAQs

The Basics

What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox or MPX belongs to the same virus of families as smallpox. It was originally discovered in Africa in 1958 when outbreaks occurred in colonies of monkeys, which is where the virus gets its name. Before the current global outbreak, MPX typically was transmitted from animals to humans. In the current outbreak, however, the virus is spreading from person to person primarily through skin-to-skin contact with an infected rash.

What are the symptoms?
A rash or sores on the body, which can look like pimples or blisters, are the tell-tale sign of an MPX infection. People may also experience flulike symptoms. The rash and sores may be all over the body or on certain parts, including around and inside the genitals, anus and mouth, and last for two to four weeks. The rash can be extremely itchy and painful and interfere with daily activities. Sores in the anus or urethra can make it hard to go to the bathroom. Even after healing, people can have scarring in the areas where they had sores.

How long does it take for symptoms to appear?
After someone is exposed to MPX, it may take 1 to 2 weeks for a person to have symptoms of the virus. People become most infectious after the rash appears.

How long is someone contagious?
People can spread MPX from the time symptoms start until all symptoms are gone (no more cold-like symptoms and the rash and bumps have crusted and fallen off, with completely healed skin underneath). This whole process can take two to four weeks.

Is MPX deadly?
Deaths are rare with the dominant MPX strain circulating during this outbreak. There have been a few deaths globally, but the large majority of people recover at home. People sometimes require hospitalization to help with pain management.

How does it spread?
MPX is currently spreading primarily through direct skin-to-skin contact with a rash or sores of someone who has the virus. Although it's not considered a sexually transmitted disease, sexual contact is the primary way the virus is spreading during this outbreak. To a lesser extent, the virus can spread by coming into contact with clothing, bedding, towels or other items infected people have used. The dominant strain of MPX circulating in the U.S. is not airborne – again, skin-to-skin contact is the main way it spreads – so the virus is not nearly as contagious as COVID.

Risk Factors, Prevention & Vaccine

Who is at the highest risk of getting MPX?
Anyone can get MPX but not everyone is at equal risk. In this current outbreak, men who have sex with men make up the vast majority of cases, especially men who have recently had sex with multiple partners.

Why are LGBTQ men at higher risk for MPX infection?
Anyone who comes into skin-to-skin contact with an infected rash can get MPX. There is nothing intrinsically about being an LGBTQ man that makes you more vulnerable to infection. The current outbreak is believed to have started and spread in social networks of men who have sex with men. Again, the risk comes from the skin-to-skin contact -- NOT the type of sex or partner..

Who is at higher risk for severe disease from MPX?
People who have conditions that weaken their immune system, including HIV, are pregnant, or have a history of eczema or certain other skin conditions may be at increased risk for severe disease.

How can I protect myself from getting it?

  • Get vaccinated as soon as you can
  • Consider having fewer sexual partners until after you're vaccinated (give the vaccine 14 days to take effect)
  • Do not have sex or intimate contact with anyone who feels unwell, especially if they have a rash or sores or were recently exposed to MPX
  • Do not share towels, clothing toothbrushes or other items infected people have used

Will a condom protect me and/or my sex partner?
We do not know yet whether condoms reduce the risk of getting or giving someone else MPX during sex. If the rash is confined to the genitals or anus, condoms may help; however, condoms alone are likely not enough to prevent MPX since monkeypox rashes/sores can show up all over the body.

Can anyone get the vaccine?
Not yet. Until supply of the Jynneos vaccine is more plentiful, we are prioritizing first doses for people who have had contact with a known case and people at higher risk for exposure in general. Visit our website for the latest eligibility info:

I've been exposed to MPX. Can I still get the vaccine?
Yes, if you get the vaccine within 4-5 days of being exposed it can help prevent infection. Once symptoms emerge, it's too late and the vaccine won't help.

Testing & Treatment

I've been exposed to MPX. How do I get tested?
Contact your regular healthcare provider about getting tested. If you do not have a regular healthcare provider, you can call the County's 24/7 Advice Nurse Line at 877-661-6230.

How does MPX testing work?
The MPX test is done on your skin with a swab at a clinic or healthcare provider. The swab is rubbed against spots on parts of your rash and then sent to a lab. Turnaround time is currently about 5 days. While you are awaiting your test results, avoid all close physical contact with others, including people you live with.

I have tested positive. Now what?
It's recommended that you stay at home and away from others for the entire contagious period. This whole process can take two to four weeks. For more information, see our Home Isolation Instructions for People with Suspected or Confirmed Monkeypox Infection.

Is there a treatment?
There is no FDA-approved pharmaceutical treatment for MPX. However, an antiviral drug called tecovirimat (TPOXX) used in the past to treat smallpox, may be made available to those considered high risk for severe disease from the virus. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you are a good candidate for TPOXX treatment.

What help is there to manage my symptoms?
Contact your healthcare provider if you are experiencing extreme pain and/or severe discomfort while peeing or pooping. Over-the-counter and prescription pain medications may help alleviate discomfort. Topical steroids and lidocaine can be applied to rash areas for relief. Stool softeners may be used to help with defecation (pooping).