What is Mpox?
Mpox is a disease caused by infection with mpox virus. In 2022, an outbreak began around the world in areas where mpox is not usually found. Previously, mpox was found mainly in Central and West Africa, often in forested areas.
People infected with mpox develop a rash that can initially look like pimples or blisters. The rash is usually painful.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of mpox can include:
- A rash that may:
- Initially look like pimples or blisters
- be painful or itch
- be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicle, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) or other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.
The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing. The illness typically lasts 2–4 weeks.
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
How does mpox spread?
Mpox spreads in a few ways.
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
This direct contact can happen during intimate contact, including:
- 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 risk for getting mpox is considered relatively low by touching objects, fabrics, and surfaces that have been used by someone with mpox and not disinfected, such as clothing, bedding, or towels.
Who is at risk?
Anyone in close contact with a person with mpox can get it and should take steps to protect themselves, especially vaccination. At this time, data suggest that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men make up the majority of cases in the mpox outbreak that began in 2022.
Travelers who plan to attend gatherings that may place them in close, skin-to-skin contact with someone who has mpox are at higher risk of getting infected.
Caregivers of persons with mpox should avoid close skin-to-skin contact with persons who have a rash, wash hands regularly and use proper PPE (mask, gloves) when providing care. Do not share eating utensils or cups and do no handle bedding, towels, or clothing of persons with mpox. Caregivers should consider getting the mpox vaccine.
Travelers such as veterinarians and wildlife professionals may be at risk if they work with infected animals including in areas where wild animals are known to be infected such as Central and West Africa.
What can travelers do to avoid getting mpox?
Mpox is often transmitted through close, sustained physical contact, and during the outbreak that began in 2022, most frequently, sexual contact.
Travelers can protect themselves against infection by taking the following steps.
- If you are eligible to get vaccinated for mpox, get two doses of vaccine before you travel. Use the Mpox Vaccine Locator to find out where you can get vaccinated.
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like mpox.
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with mpox.
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with mpox.
- Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with mpox has used.
- Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with mpox.
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, clothing, fetish gear, or sex toys of a person with mpox.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom.
What to do if you have mpox symptoms or have been around someone with mpox?
If you have mpox symptoms or had close contact with someone who has mpox, talk to your healthcare provider about testing and treatment. CDC recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to mpox and for people who are at higher risk of being exposed to mpox.
- Isolate at home or in another location until your symptoms are gone and your rash has healed; this means all scabs have fallen off and a fresh layer of skin has formed.
- If you have mpox and must travel:
- Make sure that you do not have fever or respiratory symptoms such as sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough.
- Cover your rash and wear a well-fitting mask.
- Take additional steps to prevent spread to others.
- If you test positive for mpox while at your international destination, you may be subject to local public health laws and regulations. These could include requirements to isolate and not being allowed travel until you are no longer considered contagious.
- If you have been in contact with a person who has mpox and travel internationally, you may be subject to local public health laws and regulations. These could include requirements to quarantine and not being allowed travel until you are no longer at risk for developing mpox.
- If you have symptoms of mpox, you may be required to isolate and be tested for mpox. Check your destination’s ministry of health or US embassy website to learn about arrival procedures.
- If you need medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care During Travel. Consider travel health and medical evacuation insurance. Options for treatment may not be available in some countries.
- 2022 Mpox Outbreak Cases and Data
- CDC Website: Mpox