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Monkeypox is an infection caused by a virus. It can cause rash, fever, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes. The main way monkeypox spreads is through direct contact with body fluids of someone who has the virus. The infection is usually mild, and it rarely causes death. However, people with weak immune systems are at higher risk for more severe illness.
Monkeypox is part of the same family of viruses that causes smallpox. It is not related to chickenpox. Monkeypox is now found across the world. It is important to know the symptoms and to take steps to prevent spreading or catching monkeypox.
The most visible symptom is a rash, which can be itchy or painful.
Other symptoms of monkeypox can include fever, chills, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes.
Symptoms usually develop within 3 weeks after being exposed to the virus. The illness often lasts for 2–4 weeks.
Monkeypox spreads through direct, skin-to-skin contact with body fluids of someone who has the virus.
Monkeypox can spread through large respiratory droplets during face-to-face close contact without face masks over a long time (hours).
It is rare for monkeypox to spread through the air.
Doctors diagnose monkeypox by using a swab to take a sample from the rash. They will take samples from more than one lesion. The sample is tested in a lab to see if monkeypox is present. Results usually take a few days.
To learn where to get tested, ask your doctor or contact your local health department.
If you suspect that you have monkeypox, you should isolate (stay home) until you know your results. If the test is positive, follow the steps below to prevent spreading the virus to others.
A person can spread monkeypox from the time that symptoms start until the scabs fall off, the skin has healed, and new skin has formed.
If you have monkeypox, you should avoid contact with others. Wash your hands often. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Do not share items that you have touched with others. Keep your rash covered as much as possible.
You should isolate until your rash has healed and a new layer of skin has formed. Learn more about how to prevent spread to others.
The infection is usually mild. Most people only need supportive care, such as pain medicines. People are more likely to become sick from monkeypox if they:
Medicines are available to treat monkeypox. If needed, a doctor can prescribe these medicines.
Children with cancer or other serious illnesses often have weak immune systems due to their diseases or treatments. This means they have a higher risk of illness or infection.
There are two vaccines that may be used to prevent monkeypox in people who are exposed to the virus or who are at higher risk for monkeypox.
If you have been exposed to monkeypox or think you might be eligible for a vaccine, contact your local health department. You can also contact your health care provider to find out if you are eligible for a vaccine.
Reviewed: October 2022