Monkeypox Signs & Symptoms
Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox might start with symptoms like the flu, with fever, low energy, swollen lymph nodes, and general body aches. Within 1 to 3 days (sometimes longer) after the appearance of fever, the person can develop a rash or sores. The sores will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing. They can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful and itchy.
The rash or sores may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butt) but could also be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, and face. They may also be limited to one part of the body.
People with monkeypox may experience all or only a few of these symptoms. Most with monkeypox will develop the rash or sores. Some people have reported developing a rash or sores before (or without) the flu-like symptoms. Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until all sores have healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. This can take several weeks.
Monkeypox spreads between people primarily through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids. It also can be spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or contaminated clothing, bedding, or towels (i.e., via fomites). Monkeypox can spread during intimate contact between people, including during sex, as well as activities like kissing, cuddling, or touching parts of the body with monkeypox sores.
There are a number of ways to prevent the spread of monkeypox, including:
- Always talking to your sexual partner(s) about any recent illness and being aware of new or unexplained sores or rashes on your body or your partner’s body, including on the genitals or anus
- Avoiding close contact, including sex, with people with symptoms like sores or rashes
- Practicing good hand hygiene
- People who become infected should isolate until their symptoms are improving or have gone away completely. Rash should always be well covered until completely healed.
Vaccination helps to protect against monkeypox when given before or shortly after an exposure. At this time, the federal government has allocated a limited number of JYNNEOS vaccine doses to Californians. CDPH is working with local health departments to make these doses available to protect against monkeypox. JYNNEOS is licensed for adults 18 years and older. It is administered as a two-dose injection series in the upper arm at least four weeks apart. Most people who receive the JYNNEOS vaccine have only minor reactions such as pain, redness, swelling and itching at the injection site. Less commonly, people also may experience muscle pain, headache, fatigue (tiredness), nausea, chills, and fever.
The CDC advises that people who have been exposed to monkeypox be given the vaccine to prevent them from developing the disease. This is called post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP. PEP is most effective at preventing monkeypox if the vaccine is administered within 4 days of exposure. If given between 4–14 days after the date of exposure, vaccination may help reduce symptoms, but may not prevent the infection from developing.
If you have a new or an unexplained rash or other symptoms, seek medical care for further testing and evaluation.
- Wear a mask and tell your health-care provider of your current symptoms for possible monkeypox.
- If you do not have a healthcare provider or healthcare insurance, visit Innercare clinic or local emergency department.
Avoid crowds and close contact, including sexual or intimate contact, until seeing your health-care provider.
Monkeypox Frequently Asked Questions
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that based on the limited information available, the risk appears to be small for general public, although some groups may be at elevated risk. If you have symptoms of monkeypox, contact your healthcare provider right away.
The CDC is working with state and local health officials to identify people who have been in contact with monkeypox. This is to help prevent the spread of disease and to monitor the health of individuals who tested positive for monkeypox. It is important to address disease outbreaks while the risk is small to prevent larger outbreaks.
- Monkeypox and smallpox are in the same family of viruses.
- According to the CDC, since monkeypox is closely related to the virus that causes smallpox, the smallpox vaccine may provide some protection from getting monkeypox.
However, if you have been exposed to monkeypox and it has been three years or more since your smallpox vaccine, you may not have full protection against monkeypox virus.
- You are able to spread monkeypox to other people from the start of your symptoms (or feeling like you have the flu) or the start of a rash, until all scabs have fallen off and new skin covers all the monkeypox spots.
- This can take 2 to 4 weeks.
Photo Credit: NHS England High Consequence Infectious Disease Network
In humans, the symptoms of monkeypox are similar to, but milder than, the signs and symptoms of smallpox.
Monkeypox symptoms begin with:
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
Within 1 to 3 days (sometimes longer) after the appearance of fever, a rash develops, often beginning on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body (like the extremities and genital areas).
The incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) for monkeypox is usually 7-14 days but can range from 5-21 days. The illness typically lasts for 2-4 weeks.
Anyone who has symptoms of monkeypox, such as unusual rashes or lesions, should contact a healthcare provider right away.
Painful lesions progress through the following stages before falling off:
- Macules (flat, discolored areas of skin)
- Papules (solid or cystic raised spot on the skin that is less than 1 centimeter wide).
- Vesicles (small fluid-filled blisters on the skin)
- Pustules (small, inflamed, pus-filled, blister-like sores on the skin)