What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox (MPX) is a viral illness that was first documented in 1958 among research monkeys (hence, the name), and in 1970, cases among humans were discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo and were concentrated in Central and West African countries. In May 2022 cases started appearing in the U.S. and in Minnesota. The illness typically lasts for an average of 21 days and then infected people recover, most often without treatment.
How is Monkeypox Spread?
Monkeypox is transmitted from person to person by having sustained contact with an infected person’s rash/sores/lesions. This may happen while cuddling, kissing, having sex, or massaging someone. People are infectious as long as the lesions are not healed (scabs must heal over before leaving isolation). Someone may also get Monkeypox by coming into contact with items used by a person with Monkeypox, especially porous materials like fabrics, clothing, bed sheets, hand towels, and linens. When handling such materials do not shake them, it can cause Monkeypox to be disseminated in the air. Less often, Monkeypox is spread by prolonged face to face contact of 3 hours or more.
Signs and Symptoms
Monkeypox is characterized by a new rash that develops into either one lesion or multiple lesions that are hard and pus/fluid-filled. It is most often seen as a pimple or small boil that has a dark dot in the center, but may look different depending on the individual and how long they have had it. The lesions then form a black scab that falls off and new skin heals over. Skin conditions caused by Monkeypox such as rashes and lesions are often, but not always, accompanied by flu-like symptoms. Individuals with Monkeypox may experience fever, chills, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and nausea. Pain may be associated with lesions especially when in more sensitive places such as the mouth, genital, and rectal area.
Who Can Get Monkeypox?
Anyone can get Monkeypox if they are exposed, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or race. We are seeing men who have sex with men as the majority of cases but Monkeypox has been documented among women and heterosexual men as well. People who have been vaccinated can also still get Monkeypox, although they may have less severe symptoms because of the vaccine.
If I Am Experiencing Symptoms What Should I Do?
- Begin isolating as soon as you suspect you may have Monkeypox.
- Cover your lesions with bandaids or clothing. If you are in pain or need to tips for managing symptoms visit our home care page.
- Find testing as soon as possible at your nearest public health clinic, primary care provider, or sexual health clinic. Call ahead and tell them you may be having symptoms of Monkeypox and would like testing. If you would like assistance with making that call please email us at email@example.com or call or text us at: 612-424-2231.
- Document your symptoms by taking photos, noting when you first showed symptoms, and keeping track of what symptoms you are experiencing.
- Ask for a note from your provider for work or school indicating that you are being evaluated for a viral illness and need to isolate at home. You will need to isolate while waiting for results. Some clinics receive results back within 1 day while others take 4-5 days.
What If I Was Exposed To Monkeypox?
If you are experiencing symptoms of Monkeypox after being exposed, get tested as soon as possible and isolate. People who have come into contact with Monkeypox should monitor symptoms for up to 21 days after exposure.
If you do not have symptoms you can continue daily activities and do not have to isolate. Being vaccinated is a way to prevent Monkeypox by up to 85%. See our vaccination calculator to find on what date you will receive maximum immunity. If you are exposed to Monkeypox and receive the vaccine within 4 days, there is a lower chance of transmission. If you are vaccinated 4-14 days after exposure, it may not prevent transmission but it can reduce symptoms of monkeypox. It is still possible to get Monkeypox after your first and your second dose so continue to take precautions even if vaccinated.
How Do I Prevent Monkeypox?
General Prevention and Harm Reduction
- Get vaccinated
- Wash your hands frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Wear a mask if coming into prolonged (3+ hours) face to face contact with someone
- Disinfect surfaces touched by someone with uncovered Monkeypox lesions.
- Do not handle towels, bedding, or clothing used by someone with Monkeypox.
- Do not share eating utensils or food with someone diagnosed with Monkeypox.
Sexual Health Based Prevention and Harm Reduction
- Hold off on having sex or close contact (kissing, cuddling, hugging) if you are feeling ill and/or have a rash. Encourage sex partners and friends to do the same. Phone sex/sexting is a great alternative.
- If you do have sex with someone who has Monkeypox, have them cover lesions with bandaids or clothing; use condoms and dental dams as ways to cover genital and rectal lesions.
- Do not douche while having rectal lesions. Douching while having rectal lesions can transmit Monkeypox further up the GI tract.
- Swap contact info with partners so you can notify each other if one of you tests positive for Monkeypox.
- Masturbating in the same room while not touching the other person can be an effective way of preventing transmission.
- Wash your hands, sex toys, bedding, and towels after having sex.
Visit our resources page for more harm reduction resources!