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This post was last updated October 17, 2022.

Spread of the MPXV virus, “monkeypox,” was declared a national public health emergency on August 4, 2022. Understanding of the virus is evolving so please check this site for weekly updates and any changes in guidelines.

What is MPXV, “monkeypox,” and is it deadly?
MPXV is a virus that causes flu-like symptoms as well as a painful rash that appears within six to 13 days of exposure and can take up to three weeks to heal. It is rarely fatal, but can cause harmful symptoms. Anyone who comes in close contact with someone who has the MPXV rash – or materials that person has been in close contact with --can get the virus. Transmission is not based on a person’s gender or sexual orientation.

Why is PPMM not referring to the virus as “monkeypox?”
The virus, discovered in 1958, was first named “monkeypox” when monkeys that were kept for research experienced an outbreak. However, the description is stigmatizing, and PPMM and others in the medical community are advocating for the World Health Organization (WHO) to rename the virus. We expect that the WHO will change the name in the coming weeks. For now, PPMM will refer to the virus by its clinical name, MPXV.

Who can get MPXV?
Transmission of MPXV is not based on a person’s gender or sexual orientation. To be clear, anyone who comes in close contact with the virus can get the disease, and any person of any identity can spread the virus.

Trends in the current outbreak suggest that LGBTQ+ communities are disproportionately contracting the virus.

The CDC does not have race or ethnicity data for all MPXV cases reported in the U.S. However, as of July 25, 2022, based on the race and ethnicity data available, 26% of people with confirmed cases in the U.S. are Black and 32% are Hispanic (of any race), suggesting that there may also be racial disparities in those who are getting infected.

How does someone become infected with MPXV?
MPXV is believed to be spread through:

  • Direct skin-to-skin contact with a rash or scabs
  • Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face (unmasked) contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex 
  • Scientists are still researching, but so far, it seems possible that MPXV could be spread through vaginal fluids, semen, and saliva. However, intimate, sexual contact is not the only way the virus can spread.
  • Touching porous items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash.

MPXV is NOT believed to be spread through: 

  • Brief conversations/interactions 
  • Touching items like doorknobs or elevator buttons 

Help reduce the risk of MPXV infection by: 

  • Talking to your sexual partner(s) about any recent illness, and being aware of new or unexplained sores or rashes on you or your partner’s body, including on the genitals and anus  
  • Avoiding intimate physical contact, including kissing, cuddling, and sex with someone with an unexplained rash or sore  
  • Seeking medical advice if you’ve had contact with someone who has tested positive or, if you have developed a new or unexplained rash or sore 

Remember that even if you or a sexual partner has MPXV, you can still have a pleasurable sex life by engaging in sexual intimacy without physical contact like masturbating or exploring self-touch separately, in the same physical location (but at a safe distance), or virtually

If you do choose to have sex, there are still ways to limit your risk of spreading or being exposed to MPXV.

  • Wear clothes that cover any visible sores or rashes, and limit face-to-face contact like kissing.
  • Use barrier methods of protection like condoms and gloves (if using your hands or fingers). Note that MPXV sores are not always limited to one specific part of the body, so even if you use condoms and gloves, there is still a risk of spreading MPXV.

How contagious is MPXV, and can I get it in close quarters such as public transportation?
MPXV can be prevented by frequent hand-washing and avoiding close contact with a person who has a rash that looks like MPXV – including not coming in close contact with objects and materials that person has touched. So far, there is little evidence that exposures such as being in school classrooms or trying on clothes in stores, pose significant risk. If someone is sitting next to an infected/contagious person in very close quarters, such as an airplane, for many hours and that person is coughing or sneezing, the risk is increased. As a result, it is beneficial to continue taking the same precautions recommended to reduce COVID transmission.

What are the symptoms of MPXV?
People infected with the virus often experience a fever, headache, back and muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and exhaustion. A few days after getting the fever, most people develop a rash that starts as red marks on the skin that become raised and filled with pus. These pustules can be extremely painful. Early research from the current global outbreak suggests that rashes in the genital area might be common. The rash can also show up on other parts of the body such as the palms of the hands and bottoms of the feet. Public health officials believe that in some cases, MPXV may be initially misdiagnosed as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) like herpes or syphilis.

What should you do if you are infected with MPXV?
The treatment involves management of symptoms and being sure to isolate while you have the infectious skin rash. A drug called Tecovirimat (TPOXX) has also been shown to be effective in treating extreme cases of MPXV and may be available through your health care provider.

Can I test for MPXV?
You can’t test for MPXV until the rash/lesions show up on your skin. If you have a rash, your health care provider can swab the lesions and test for MPXV.

Can I get the vaccine?
One MPXV vaccine, Jynneos, is licensed by the FDA, however, there has been a bottleneck in ordering/distribution of the vaccine in the U.S., causing a severe shortage among health care providers. PPMM plans to have access to the vaccine at our health centers later in August/September. Because of the vaccine shortage, this initial shipment of vaccines will be used for individuals at highest risk. Call us or talk to your provider if you’d like to consider receiving the MPXV vaccine.

Is MPXV a sexually transmitted infection?
This is currently under review by public health departments. The most important thing for people to know right now is that the virus can spread through close contact with someone who has symptoms and possibly through some bodily fluids. This can include skin-to-skin contact such as during cuddling, kissing, or sex, but that is not the only way the virus spreads. Transmission is not based on a person’s gender or sexual orientation. Anyone who comes in close contact with MPXV can get it.

https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/index.html– Center for Disease Control/Prevention (CDC)
https://www.who.int/health-topics/monkeypox#tab=tab_1 – World Health Organization (WHO)
https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Monkeypox.aspx– California Dept. Public Health