What is monkeypox or Mpox
Monkeypox (now called Mpox) is an infectious disease caused by the Monkeypox virus (MPXV). It can cause a painful rash, enlarged lymph nodes and fever. Most people fully recover, but some can get very sick.
How is the Mpox virus (MPXV) transmitted?
Person-to-person transmission of Mpox can occur through direct contact with lesions (i.e. blisters or open sores) on the skin or mucous membranes, such as the linings of the mouth, genitals, or anus. Transmission can also occur through lengthy, close-range exposure to respiratory droplets. Risky contact scenarios include:
- prolonged, close, face-to-face contact (due to exposure to respiratory droplets, or short-range aerosols, from talking or breathing)
- skin-to-skin contact (touching or vaginal/anal sex)
- mouth-to-mouth contact (kissing)
- mouth-to-skin contact (oral sex or kissing the skin)
The virus enters the body through broken skin, mucosal surfaces (e.g. linings of the mouth, throat, eyes, genitals, and anus/rectum), or via the respiratory tract. Mpox can spread to other members of the household and to sexual partners.
Persons can also contract Mpox from contaminated objects such as clothing or linens, through puncture injuries with sharp objects in health care, or in community settings, such as tattoo parlours.
What are the symptoms of Mpox?
Mpox can cause a range of signs and symptoms. While some people have mild disease, others may develop more serious illness and may require care in a health facility. Those at higher risk for severe disease or complications include pregnant women, children and persons who are immunocompromised.
Symptoms usually begin within a week but can start 1–21 days after exposure. Symptoms typically last 2–4 weeks but may last longer in persons that are immunocompromised.
Common symptoms of Mpox are:
- sore throat
- muscle aches
- back pain
- low energy
- swollen lymph nodes
For some persons, the first symptom of Mpox is a rash, while others may have different symptoms first.
The rash can be found in the following areas
- on the face
- palms of the hands
- soles of the feet
- groin, and genital and/or anal regions of the body
The number of lesions can range from one to several hundred. Lesions begin flat, then fill with liquid before they crust over, dry up and fall off, with a fresh layer of skin forming underneath. People with Mpox are infectious and can pass the disease onto others until all sores have healed and a new layer of skin has formed.
What is the treatment for people with Mpox?
People with Mpox should follow the advice of their health care provider. Symptoms normally resolve on their own without the need for treatment. If needed, medication for pain (analgesics) and fever (antipyretics) can be used to relieve some symptoms.
Additionally, if you are being treated for Mpox:
- Persons must stay hydrated, eat well, and get enough sleep.
- Persons with Mpox should avoid scratching their skin and take care of their rash by cleaning their hands before and after touching lesions and keeping skin dry and uncovered (unless they are unavoidably in a room with someone else, in which case they should cover it with clothing or a bandage until they are able to isolate again).
- Persons should keep their rashes clean with sterilised water or antiseptic. Saltwater rinses can be used for lesions in the mouth, and warm baths with baking soda and Epsom salts can help with lesions on the body.
How can Mpox be prevented?
To avoid contracting the Mpox virus persons should continue to follow the general hygiene principles such as
- Frequent handwashing
- Cleaning and Sanitising of high-touch surfaces
- Avoid contact with persons who are suspected or confirmed to have the Mpox virus
To prevent spread of Mpox to others, persons with Mpox should isolate at home, or in hospital if needed, for the duration of the infectious period (from onset of symptoms until lesions have healed and scabs fall off).
Covering lesions and wearing a medical mask when in the presence of others may help prevent spread. Using condoms during sex will help reduce the risk getting Mpox but will not prevent spread from skin-to-skin or mouth-to-skin contact.