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What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus. It was first discovered in 1958, when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease happened in colonies of monkeys that were kept for research.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

The signs of monkeypox are similar to those of smallpox, but often milder. Overall, monkeypox lasts for two to four weeks. The illness starts with these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
Within a few days, an infected person will develop a rash that usually starts on the face and spreads to other parts of the body. The monkeypox rash usually develops within one to three days after fever. However, some people may experience a rash or sores first, followed by other symptoms. Some people may also only develop a rash. The bumps then go through different stages before they fall off.

How do you get monkeypox?

Monkeypox spreads to a person when they come into contact with the virus from an animal, a person, or materials contaminated with the virus. The virus can then enter the body through broken skin or the eyes, nose, or mouth.

Monkeypox does not spread easily from person to person. People must have close, sustained contact with an infected person to get the virus.

People usually become infected with monkeypox:

  • by having direct contact with the skin lesions or body fluids of an infected person,
  • through sharing items such as bedding or clothing of an infected person, or
  • through prolonged exposure to an infected person's respiratory droplets.

Monkeypox can also be spread to people from animals through bites, scratches, preparation of wild game, and direct or indirect contact with the body fluids of an infected animal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that human-to-human transmission is thought to mostly happen through large respiratory droplets. These cannot travel more than a few feet and people need to have “prolonged” face-to-face contact in order to spread the virus.

How to Treat and Prevent Monkeypox


Most people who have monkeypox recover without needing treatment within two to four weeks. While there is no specific treatment for monkeypox, antiviral medications that have been used to treat smallpox can be used. People who have been exposed to someone with monkeypox may be eligible to receive a vaccine to prevent the onset of disease.


There are number of measures that can be taken to prevent infection with monkeypox virus:

  • Avoid contact with animals that could harbor the virus (including animals that are sick or that have been found dead in areas where monkeypox occurs).
  • Avoid contact with any materials, such as bedding, that has been in contact with a sick animal.
  • Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.
  • Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox.
  • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom.
  • Isolate infected patients from others who could be at risk for infection.
  • Practice good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans. For example, washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for patients.
  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
  • Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.

Monkeypox Resources