Mpox: What you need to know

Plus, what to do if you think you’ve been exposed

Mpox (formerly known as monkeypox) is a rare disease caused by a virus that belongs to the same family of viruses that cause smallpox. It’s less contagious than smallpox and usually spreads through close, personal contact. Generally, it also causes less severe illness, so most mpox cases resolve on their own.

Mpox doesn’t spread as easily as respiratory viruses like COVID-19. So most people aren’t considered at high risk. But Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping protect our members and providing appropriate treatment to those who do become infected. Here’s what you need to know about mpox.

What are the symptoms of mpox?

In the U.S., most people with mpox develop a rash. It usually starts as a red area that turns into pimples and blisters before scabbing. Before the rash starts, some people also experience fever, chills, and fatigue.

The rash is often only in the genital area and thighs. But there have been cases where the rash is on the face, hands, and arms. It’s important to keep the rash covered around other people whenever possible.

How does mpox spread?

Mpox usually spreads through direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a rash. It can also be spread by sharing surfaces, clothing, or bedding with an infected person. It appears to rarely spread through coughing.

Until symptoms start, mpox isn’t contagious. After symptoms start, it’s contagious until all scabs have fallen off and new skin has formed in their place.

How sick do people get from mpox?

People with mpox can experience:

  • Rash, pimples, and blisters
  • Pain from the rash
  • Head, muscle, and back aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

Mpox illness usually lasts 2 to 4 weeks, and most people will get better on their own.

Is there a mpox vaccine?

Yes, there is a mpox vaccine. It’s administered in 2 doses, 28 days apart, to help prevent illness. Although many vaccines are only effective before exposure, you can take the mpox vaccine before or after exposure to the virus. 

Vaccine eligibility varies by location, but the vaccine is often offered to people who:

  • Were identified by public health agencies through investigation, contact tracing, and risk exposure assessments
  • Know that a sexual partner in the past 14 days has mpox
  • Had multiple sexual partners in the past 14 days in an area with a known mpox outbreak. Learn more about confirmed cases of mpox.

What types of mpox testing and treatment are available?

Mpox tests need to be processed at a qualified laboratory facility. So you need to get tested by a health care professional. There is currently no home test for mpox.

The vaccine can help prevent mpox before or after exposure to the virus. If you get mpox, some smallpox treatments can be effective. But many mpox cases don’t need treatment with medication.

How do I protect myself against mpox?

Mpox is usually spread through direct skin-to-skin contact. In general, it’s best to avoid:

  • Close contact with people who have a rash that looks like mpox
  • Touching the rash or scabs of someone with mpox
  • Having sex with someone with mpox or who has a rash that looks like mpox
  • Sharing clothing or bedding with someone who has mpox

What should I do if I think I’ve been exposed to mpox?

If you experience mpox symptoms or think you’ve been exposed, you should isolate and contact your doctor immediately. Kaiser Permanente members can call their care team or send them a direct message on or in our app.

Our doctors will work closely with local public health officials to address any suspected mpox exposure or cases.



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