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Monkeypox FAQs

Last Updated, 30 May, 2022

Learn more about Monkeypox and what you can do if travelling overseas or if you've just returned, and with cases acquired locally, it's time for everyone to become familiar with Monkepox.

What is Monkeypox (MPXV)?

MPXV is a rare viral infection that does not spread easily between people and is usually associated with travel to Central or West Africa, where it is endemic.

Cases of MPXV have been identified in several non-endemic countries in recent weeks, including several European countries and the United States.

The situation with MPXV is changing rapidly. Whilst travellers need to be aware of what monkeypox is and how it is spread, there have also been cases acquired locally so it’s time for everyone to become familiar with monkeypox.

It typically begins with influenza-like illness and swelling of the lymph nodes, then progresses to a widespread rash on the face and body.

MPXV is usually a self-limited disease with the symptoms lasting from 2 to 4 weeks. Severe cases can occur.

What are the symptoms of MPXV?

The incubation period (the time from infection to the onset of symptoms) of MPXV is usually 1-2 weeks days but can be up to 21 days.

Symptoms include a fever, headache, muscle aches, low energy, swollen lymph nodes and a skin rash or lesions (symptoms are similar to COVID or the flu).

The rash usually begins within one to three days of the start of a fever, and tends to be more concentrated on the face, arms and legs. It can also be found on the mouth, genitals and eyes. 

How is MPXV transmitted?

MPXV is transmitted through close physical contact with someone who has symptoms.

The rash, bodily fluids (such as fluid, pus or blood from skin lesions) and scabs are particularly infectious. Ulcers, lesions or sores in the mouth can also be infectious, meaning the virus can spread through saliva.

Clothing, linens or objects that have come into contact with a person who has MPXV can also infect others.

MPXV has not been previously described as a sexually transmitted infection but it can spread in sexual networks through direct contact during sex or clothing and bedding used by someone with MPXV.

How is MPXV treated?

Most people with MPXV have a mild self-limiting illness and recover within a few weeks without specific treatment.

There are some therapies available for the treatment of MPXV, particularly for people at high-risk such as those who are immunosuppressed.

Because MPXV is closely related to the virus that causes smallpox, the smallpox vaccine can protect people from getting MPXV. Vaccines may be indicated in persons at greatest risk of getting MPXV.

Am I at greater risk if I’m HIV-positive?

There is very limited evidence on MPXV in people living with HIV, and most is based on research in countries where access to treatment is low, and experience far negative health outcomes than in Australia.

At the moment people living with HIV should follow the same advice as the general population.

Should evidence emerge that people with suppressed immune systems are at greater risk of MPXV, or ill-health from catching the virus, then updated information and advice will be made available.

Why are cases of MPXV being detected among gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men?

A large number of cases detected overseas are among gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men. One reason for this is the active health seeking behaviour of gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men around sexual health. Because MPXV rashes can resemble some STIs, such as herpes or syphilis, cases are being detected in sexual health clinics around the world.

It’s important to note that the risk of MPXV is not limited to gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men. Anyone who has close contact with someone who is infectious is at risk.

Stigmatising people because of a disease is never okay. Anyone can get or pass on MPXV regardless of their sexuality.

If you have recently returned from overseas ...

People who have recently returned from overseas, have attended any dance parties, sex parties or saunas - especially in Europe - and who develop any symptoms, particularly an unusual rash or swollen lymph nodes, should seek medical advice immediately.

You should stay at home and remain isolated until given further advice by your treating doctor. If you are presenting to a clinic or emergency department, call to let them know you are attending, wear a mask, on arrival inform the reception staff and wait to be isolated until seen.

MPXV can be transmitted to pets. If you are isolating and experiencing symptoms, it is recommended that you isolate away from any pets.

MPXV can also be transmitted via clothing and other materials, so it is recommended that you wash all clothing items, towels and sex toys that you took overseas.

The MPXV rash can appear at multiple sites across the body. It is suggested that you check your genital areas for any new spots and lesions and seek medical advice immediately.

If you are planning to travel overseas ...

If you are planning to travel overseas, it is important to stay informed and remain aware of developments. The situation with MPXV is changing rapidly.

  • Follow public health alerts and advice from local health authorities of the countries you are visiting.
  • If visiting festivals or large events, keep alert of any event updates (before and after) from organisers.

Be aware and exercise caution if you plan to attend any large scale pride events, sex parties or SOPVs, particularly in places where there are identified cases of MPXV.

How can I prevent MPXV?

You can reduce your risk of contracting MPXV by:

  • Avoiding contact, including sexual contact, with people who are unwell or have compatible symptoms.
  • Avoiding skin-to-skin contact, particularly with any rash or lesions.
  • Avoiding contact with clothing, bedding or objects that have been in contact with or used by people with MPXV.
  • Undertaking good hand hygiene practices.

As always, self-isolate if unwell and seek medical attention if you develop any symptoms.

For more information about Monkeypox, head to the Better Health Channel