Monkeypox

Monkeypox (MPX) is a viral disease that is transmitted to humans through close contact with:

  • an infected animal or person
  • contaminated materials.

It’s related to smallpox, but is less contagious and causes less severe disease.

You can identify it by a rash and for most people, symptoms will clear up on their own after 2 to 4 weeks.

How it is spread

MPX is spread between people through:

  • close contact with rashes, blisters or sores on the skin
  • body fluids, including respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing
  • contaminated objects such as linen and towels.

Although it’s not a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it can transfer through physical contact during sex.

It is unclear whether you can get MPX through semen or vaginal fluids.

During pregnancy, MPX can also pass to the baby through the placenta.

Who is at risk

  • people who have had close physical contact with a confirmed case
  • gay or bisexual men and men who have sex with men
  • travellers returning from or going to countries with confirmed cases.

If you’re in these groups and think you may be at risk, you should be aware of the symptoms.

You should also seek medical help immediately if you develop any symptoms.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of MPX can start 5 to 21 days after exposure.

They can include:

  • a distinctive rash with lesions (flat bumps that become raised, fill with fluid, and then crust and scab)
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • fever or history of fever
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • joint or back pain
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • sore throat.

If you develop any of these symptoms and are in one of the at-risk groups, you should seek medical advice immediately.

Treatment

MPX is usually mild and people usually recover within a few weeks.

Most cases will only require:

  • supportive treatment
  • treatment of complications eg. antibiotics for infected skin sore.

Your doctor will decide whether you need treatment with anti-viral medication.

Isolation

MPX can be infectious from the time symptoms develop, and until all scabs have healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed.

Infected people must isolate until all blisters or sores have healed. This may take several weeks.

Vaccine

The MPX vaccine will initially be given to those at highest risk of:

  • contracting the disease
  • severe outcomes if the disease were to be contracted.

As more vaccines become available, it will be expanded to more people.

You may be eligible to receive the MPX vaccine if you’re aged 16 years and over and are any of the following:

  • high-risk close contact of a confirmed case
  • a sexually active gay or bisexual man, or a man who has sex with men (including cis and trans men)
  • sex worker
  • sistergirl.

If you’re eligible, you can get the vaccine by calling Clinic 34 to book:

Prevention

If you’re having sex while travelling, you should use a condom. Condom use is recommended, although they are not fully protective as any skin-to-skin contact with an infected person will put you at risk of MPX.

You should also be aware of MPX risk when attending places where intimate contact with people occurs.

If you’re caring for, or having contact with a confirmed case, you should:

  • wear personal protective equipment, including gloves and a surgical mask
  • practise good hand hygiene:
    • wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water
    • use alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • avoid exposure to body fluids, lesion material or contaminated materials like bedding.

More information

For more information about MPX, go to the Australian Government’s Department of Health and Aged Care website.


Last updated: 21 September 2022

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