Céline Gounder, MD, Infectious Disease Specialist answers questions about the mpox virus.
Monkeypox is a virus that’s a close cousin of smallpox, but which causes a milder disease. Monkeypox can be transmitted through contact with infected skin lesions, which may be shedding virus.
Right now, monkeypox is spreading actively among networks of men who have sex with men, but it may not remain that way.
The symptoms of monkeypox include fevers, chills and swollen lymph glands, as well as a rash. The rash typically starts with red spots, which then evolve into fluid, filled blisters, then becoming puss filled, and then breaking open.
And what we’re seeing with this current outbreak, because so many of these cases are sexually transmitted, we’re seeing a lot of lesions on the penis, around the anus or inside the anus, as well as in or around the mouth.
You can get monkeypox from contaminated objects, including bedsheets and towels. It can also be transmitted through respiratory droplets or sprays, although that’s thought to be a less efficient mode of transmission.
Monkeypox typically last a few weeks. Someone should be considered infectious until those scabs fall off and there is new growth underneath.
If you think you may have been exposed to monkeypox, you should check yourself, your skin, your mouth, and your genitalia, as well as your anus for any lesions. Sometimes these lesions can be difficult to see if they’re internal and you may need the help of a friend or partner, medical provider, or even using a handheld mirror to examine yourself.
We strongly recommend that if you have symptoms of monkeypox, have had an exposure to monkeypox that you seek testing at a sexual health clinic. The easiest way to identify the nearest sexual health clinic near you is to go to get tested.cdc.gov.
For more on mpox, visit greaterthan.org/monkeypox.