Mpox ("MPV" or "MPX") is a rare, but potentially serious viral illness that can be transmitted from person to person through direct contact with bodily fluids or Mpox lesions/rash.
While the current level of Mpox activity in the United States is higher than what we normally see, the risk to the general population is low. People with Mpox in the current outbreak generally report having close, sustained physical contact with other people who have Mpox. It's important to be aware of the signs of Mpox and contact a health care provider ASAP if you are exposed or have symptoms.
While anyone can catch Mpox if they have close contact with someone who has Mpox, many of those affected in the current outbreaks are gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men.
How is Mpox spread?
Mpox spreads in different ways. The virus can spread from person-to-person through:
- direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
- respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
- touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
- pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta
It’s also possible for people to get Mpox from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal.
Mpox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. People who do not have Mpox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others. At this time, it is not known if Mpox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids.
Mpox is not nearly as contagious at COVID-19. It doesn't spread from casual conversation or simply walking by someone in a store. You need to have prolonged, physical contact or share bedding or clothing with someone who has the virus for it to spread.
How long after exposure to Mpox do symptoms begin?
The incubation period (time from infection to having symptoms) for Mpox is usually 7−14 days but can range from 5−21 days.
What are the symptoms of Mpox?
Symptoms of Mpox can include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
- A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.
Mpox can look different in different stages. People with Mpox may first develop a flu-like illness with fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, and enlarged lymph nodes. A characteristic rash, which can appear like blisters/sores or pimples, occurs a few days later. However, in recent cases, patients have developed localized rashes around the genitals or anus without having flu-like symptoms first. Sores may be in other areas like the hands, feet, chest, or face. Sores may be painful or itchy.
Sores progress through several stages before falling off. The illness typically lasts for 2−4 weeks. A person is considered infectious from when symptoms begin until sores have crusted, those crusts have separated, and a fresh layer of healthy skin has formed underneath.
How serious is Mpox?
Mpox can be serious, though most cases resolve on their own. The type of Mpox seen in this current outbreak is rarely fatal, and more than 99% of people who get this form of the disease are likely to survive.
However, some groups are likely at higher risk of severe illness, including children under age 8, people who have weakened immune systems or are pregnant, and people with history of atopic dermatitis or eczema.
Is there a treatment for Mpox?
There are no treatments specifically for Mpox virus infections. However, Mpox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, which means that antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent and treat Mpox virus infections.
Antivirals, such as tecovirimat (TPOXX), may be recommended for people who are more likely to get severely ill, like patients with weakened immune systems.
If you have symptoms of Mpox, you should talk to your healthcare provider, even if you don’t think you had contact with someone who has Mpox.
Are there vaccines for Mpox?
There are vaccines for Mpox. Vaccines can be given to prevent illness.
Our guiding principles are to distribute vaccine rapidly in an equitable way to those at risk for MPV, prioritizing those at risk for severe outcomes.
- To value the input of the most affected community.
- To communicate transparently.
- To be flexible and adapt the strategy according to available data and resources.
We strive to utilize all doses of vaccine as soon as they become available to help mitigate spread. The vaccine is free to you, safe, and effective.
In Michigan, the MPV (Mpox) vaccine is available to those who have been exposed to someone with MPV and/or anyone who thinks they may be at risk. Please call your local health department to make an appointment or visit Mpox Vaccine Locator · Mpox Vaccine Locator (mpoxvaxmap.org)
What should I do if I'm exposed or have symptoms (like a new, unexplained rash)?
Avoid others (including pets) and contact your health care provider right away. Mpox testing is available through local health care providers.
How do you test for Mpox?
Healthcare providers cannot always know for sure if a rash is Mpox just by looking at it. They will need to do skin swab tests to know for sure. They may also do blood tests for other infections that can look like Mpox, such as a syphilis test.
You must have a rash or sores to get a Mpox test. The Mpox test is done on your skin with a swab at a clinic or health care provider. The swab is rubbed against sores on your skin, or parts of your rash, and then sent to a specialized lab for Mpox testing. A preliminary lab test result should be available in a few days.
What should I do if I'm diagnosed with Mpox?
Follow the treatment and prevention recommendations of your healthcare provider. Avoid close contact with anyone until all your sores have healed and you have a fresh layer of skin formed.
How can Mpox be prevented?
Take the following steps to prevent getting Mpox:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like Mpox.
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with Mpox.
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with Mpox.
- Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with Mpox.
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with Mpox.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Michigan Department of Health & Human Services
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Mpox 2022 response webpage
- Information on social gatherings, safer sex, and Mpox
- World Health Organization (WHO) - Mpox webpage (with multiple languages)