Monkeypox

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare infection most commonly found in west or central Africa.

Although more people have been diagnosed with it recently, only a small number of people in the UK have had monkeypox and the risk remains low.

You’re extremely unlikely to have monkeypox if:

  • you have not been in close contact (such as touching their skin or sharing towels, clothes or bedding) with someone who has monkeypox or has monkeypox symptoms
  • you have not recently travelled to west or central Africa

Anyone can get monkeypox. Though currently most cases have been in men who are gay, bisexual or have sex with other men, so it’s particularly important to be aware of the symptoms if you’re in these groups.

How do you get monkeypox?

Monkeypox can be passed on from person to person through:

Any close physical contact with monkeypox blisters or scabs (including during sexual contact, kissing, cuddling or holding hands) touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with monkeypox. 

Coughs or sneezes of a person with monkeypox when they’re close to you.

Symptoms 

If you get infected with monkeypox, it usually takes between 5 and 21 days for the first symptoms to appear. Early symptoms of monkeypox include: 

  • High temperature.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Backache.
  • Swollen glands.
  • Shivering (chills).
  • Exhaustion.
  • Joint pain.

A rash usually appears 1 to 5 days after the first symptoms. The rash often begins on the face, then spreads to other parts of the body. This can include the mouth, genitals and anus.

You may also have anal pain or bleeding from your bottom.

The rash is sometimes confused with chickenpox. It starts as raised spots, which turn into small blisters filled with fluid. These blisters eventually form scabs which later fall off.

The symptoms usually clear up in a few weeks. While you have symptoms, you can pass monkeypox on to other people. 

If you get infected with monkeypox, it usually takes between 5 and 21 days for the first symptoms to appear. Early symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • High temperature.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Backache.
  • Swollen glands.
  • Shivering (chills).
  • Exhaustion.
  • Joint pain.

A rash usually appears 1 to 5 days after the first symptoms. The rash often begins on the face, then spreads to other parts of the body. This can include the mouth, genitals and anus.

You may also have anal pain or bleeding from your bottom.

The rash is sometimes confused with chickenpox. It starts as raised spots, which turn into small blisters filled with fluid. These blisters eventually form scabs which later fall off.

The symptoms usually clear up in a few weeks. While you have symptoms, you can pass monkeypox on to other people. 

Treatment

Monkeypox is usually mild and most people recover within a few weeks without treatment.

But, if your symptoms are more severe and you become unwell, you may need treatment in hospital. 

The risk of needing treatment in hospital is higher for older people, young children, people with a condition or who are taking a medicine that affects their immune system.

Because the infection can be passed on through close contact, it’s important to isolate if you’re diagnosed with it. 

You may be asked to isolate at home if your symptoms are mild. GOV.UK has further advice for people infected with Monkeypox who are isolating at home.

Do’s

  • Wash your hands with soap and water regularly or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Talk to sexual partners about their sexual health and any symptoms they may have.
  • Be aware of the symptoms of monkeypox if you are sexually active, especially if you have new sexual partners.
  • Take a break from sex and intimate contact  if you have symptoms of monkeypox until you get seen by a doctor and told you are no longer at risk of passing it on.

Don’ts

  • Do not share bedding or towels with people who may have monkeypox. 
  • Do not have close contact (within 1 metre) with people who may have monkeypox. 
  • Do not go near wild or stray animals,  including animals that appear unwell or are dead, while travelling in west and central Africa. 
  • Do not eat or touch meat from wild animals while travelling in west and central Africa.