University Health Service

visual examples of monkeypox rash

Monkeypox (MPV) is a potentially serious viral illness. It can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected person’s body fluids or MPV rashes or lesions. 

MPV is part of the same family of viruses as the variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. MPV symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal.

The current level of MPV in the U.S. is higher than normal, but the risk to the general population is low. Most people affected in the current outbreak have generally reported having close physical contact for a sustained time with someone who has MPV. 


How is MPV spread?

MPV can be spread from person to person through close, personal contact (often skin-to-skin contact), including:

  • Direct contact with MPV lesions, sores, rashes, or scabs.
  • Contact with objects, surfaces, and fabrics (such as clothing, bedding, or towels) that have been used by someone with MPV.
  • Through oral fluids or respiratory droplets from a person with MPV during prolonged face-to-face contact.
  • This contact can happen during intimate sexual contact, including: 
    • Anal, oral, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals and/or anus of a person with MPV.
    • Hugging, kissing, massaging, and talking closely.
    • Touching fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with MPV (this includes bedding, sex toys, and towels).

People can also get MPV from an infected animal through a bite or direct contact with the infected animal’s blood, body fluids, or sores. 

MPV is not as contagious as COVID-19. It does not spread through casual contact or having a conversation with someone who has MPV. You must have prolonged, physical contact or share bedding/clothing/towels with someone who has MPV for it to spread.


How quickly do symptoms start?

From the time of infection until you start showing symptoms is typically 7-14 days, but it can range from 5-21 days.


What are the symptoms of MPV?

MPV can look different in different stages of the illness. It may begin with:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

A rash, often appearing on the face and then spreading, usually occurs within 1-3 days. The sores go through several stages before they fall off. Illness typically lasts for 2-4 weeks. 

A person is considered infectious from the time symptoms begin until the rash/sores have crusted, separated, and a fresh layer of healthy skin has formed. 


What should I do if I’ve been exposed or have symptoms of MPV?

  • Isolate yourself from others (including pets). 
  • Cover skin rashes/lesions as best as you can. Wear long sleeves and long pants to avoid contact with surfaces or other people. 
  • Wear a surgical mask.
  • Contact your health care provider right away. Your health care provider can help you get tested for MPV and determine your next steps. 

Refer to this fact sheet on what to do if you have been exposed by the Washtenaw County Health Department. 


Vaccination

There are vaccines that can be given to prevent MPV. If someone has been exposed, getting vaccinated within 4 days can prevent the onset of the virus. Getting vaccinated between 4-14 days after exposure may reduce symptoms of the virus. 

Vaccine supplies are currently very limited and not available to the general public. Until more supply is available, vaccines are prioritized by the health department for those who have been exposed. See the Washtenaw County Health Department vaccination eligibility page to determine if you qualify and for more information. Should the health department deem a vaccine necessary, UHS would help coordinate it for you. The vaccine being used in Michigan is the Jynneos vaccine.


How do you diagnose MPV?

UHS offers MPV testing. You must have a rash or sores on your skin to get an MPV test. To make a diagnosis, your healthcare provider will need to do a skin swab test. Preliminary tests are generally available in a few days. Blood tests may also be done to look for other infections that can look like a monkeypox rash.

See this fact sheet from the Washtenaw County Health Department if you’re waiting for MPV test results


What should I do if I test positive for MPV?

  • Follow the guidance of your healthcare provider. 
  • Avoid direct contact with anyone until all of your rash/sores are healed and you have a fresh layer of skin formed. 

Additional instructions from the Washtenaw County Health Department are available on their if you test positive fact sheet.


Is there treatment for MPV?

There is no specific treatment for MPV, though antivirals for smallpox may be used. Most infections last 2-4 weeks and resolve without specific treatment.


How can MPV be prevented?

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have MPV lesions or rashes that look like they may be MPV.
  • Avoid contact with any fabrics or materials, such as bedding, clothing, and towels, that have been in contact with an infected person or a sick animal.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after contact with infected animals or humans.
  • Talk to close physical and sexual contacts about their general health, like recent rashes or sores. 
  • Use personal protective equipment (eye protection, gloves, and an N95/KN95 mask) when caring for sick people.
  • Avoid contact with animals that could harbor the virus (including animals that are sick or that have been found dead in areas where MPV occurs).
  • Do not dry dust or sweep as this may spread infectious particles.

Other rashes to consider

If you are sexually active, UHS recommends getting screened regularly for sexually transmitted infections. Syphilis and herpes are much more common than MPV and they may be similar in appearance. All infections should be treated. 


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