Monkeypox (MPX) is a rare disease caused by infection with the MPX virus. It is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, which causes smallpox. It is not related to chickenpox.

On this page, you will learn more about: 

  • MPX symptoms 
  • How the MPX virus spreads 

MPX Symptoms 

MPX symptoms are like smallpox symptoms, but milder. The disease is rarely deadly. The number of cases is rising, but experts say the risk to most people is low.  

Some symptoms of MPX are: 

  • Fever 
  • Headache 
  • Muscle aches and backache 
  • Swollen lymph nodes 
  • Chills 
  • Exhaustion 
  • Sore throat, stuffy nose, cough, or other breathing problems 
  • A rash that may be found on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) but could also be on the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth. 
    • The rash may form scabs before healing. 
    • The rash can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy. 

You may get all or only a few symptoms. Monkeypox symptoms most often start within 3 weeks after making contact with the virus. Monkeypox can be spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness often lasts 2-4 weeks. 

How the MPX virus spreads 

Unlike COVID-19, it is harder to spread MPX from person to person. Here are some ways in which the virus can spread: 

  • Close, often skin-to-skin contact, such as: 
    • Direct contact with MPX rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with MPX.
    • Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with MPX. 
    • Contact with respiratory fluids. 
  • This direct contact can happen during close contact, such as: 
    • Oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) of a person with MPX. 
    • Hugging, massage, and kissing. 
    • A long stretch of face-to-face contact 
    • Touching fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with monkeypox and that have not been disinfected, such as bedding, towels, fetish gear, and sex toys. 
    • A pregnant person can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta. 
  • People can get MPX from animals that carry the virus. This can happen by being scratched or bitten by the animal. Cooking or eating the meat of an animal with the virus can also spread it. 

A person with monkeypox can spread it to others from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed.