Quick Exit

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox (MPX) is an infection caused by the Monkeypox virus. It has been around for decades but, until recently, was rarely seen outside of Central and West Africa. The virus has now become more common around the world, including in Australia.

Monkeypox does not spread as easily as a virus like COVID-19, but transmission is still possible, so it’s a good idea to learn about Monkeypox symptoms, diagnosis and treatment (including vaccination).

What are the symptoms of Monkeypox?

Monkeypox symptoms typically begin like a cold or flu, with headache, fever, muscle aches, low energy and swollen lymph nodes. Usually, these symptoms occur within 1-2 weeks of infection, but can take longer, sometimes up to 21 days.

The infection then progresses to a rash, often with lesions that look like blisters or sores.  This usually occurs within 1-3 days of the fever starting.

Monkeypox rash tends to be present on the face, arms and legs, but can be found all over the body including in the mouth, genital area and anus. 

The rash goes through different stages as the body’s immune system responds to the virus. Typically, lesions will fill with fluid, become inflamed (red and sore to touch), before becoming a scab and falling off to reveal a new layer of skin.

Once all of these stages are complete a person is usually no longer infectious (they can’t pass the virus on).

Monkeypox virus is usually a mild illness and most people recover within 2-4 weeks.

What do I do if I have symptoms?

If you develop symptoms as described above, you should stay at home and phone your GP clinic or the Canberra Sexual Health Clinic on (02) 5124 2184.

Usually, you will be offered a telehealth appointment in the first instance.

If you need to attend an in-person appointment as part of a diagnosis, you should wear a mask and cover any lesions with dressings and clothing where possible.

Things to remember:

  • Call before attending a health service
  • Avoid public transport
  • Wear a mask
  • Cover any lesions with clothing or dressings (ask your GP or clinic what type of dressing to use)
  • Avoid sex or intimacy with others until examined
  • Avoid gatherings, particularly if they involve close, skin-to-skin contact with other people

How is Monkeypox transmitted?

Monkeypox is transmitted through very close contact with infected people (such as skin-to skin contact during intimate or sexual contact) and can also spread through respiratory transmission (such as prolonged face-to-face contact) and contact with infected surfaces (such as contaminated clothing, towels or furniture). 

Monkeypox isn't a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but the close physical contact during sex can be a pathway for transmission to happen. People who have recovered from monkeypox should use condoms when having sex for eight weeks after recovery.

How is Monkeypox treated?

Most people experience mild illness and recover in a few weeks without needing specific treatment.

People at high-risk, like those who are immunosuppressed, may benefit from access to anti-viral therapies. We encourage seeking advice from your GP if you are concerned.

Is there a vaccine that protects against Monkeypox?

Yes! A vaccine called JYNNEOS is approved for use in Australia and can prevent the spread and severity of the Monkeypox virus. Vaccines are currently in short supply because of global demand, but Meridian and our partners have been working with our local health authorities to provide vaccine access to people who are at higher risk of exposure.

People most at risk from exposure, transmission, and severe outcomes from Monkeypox if it were to become more widespread, will have access to the first vaccine doses to arrive in the ACT.

For more information about the Monkeypox vaccine in the ACT, visit https://health.act.gov.au/about-our-health-system/population-health/disease-surveillance/monkeypox-mpxv#vaccination

Monkeypox is also closely related to the virus that causes Smallpox. This means that people who are vaccinated against Smallpox may have some protection against the spread and severity of Monkeypox as well. 

What can I do to prevent Monkeypox?

You can reduce your risk of contracting monkeypox by:

  • Avoiding contact, including sexual contact, with people who are unwell or have Monkeypox symptoms as described above.
  • Avoiding skin-to-skin contact, particularly with any rashes or lesions.
  • Avoiding contact with clothing, bedding or objects that have been in contact with or used by people with Monkeypox.
  • Undertaking good hand hygiene practices.
At festivals, clubs and parties:

To protect yourself and your community at events, you can:

  • Seek information from trusted sources like local health authorities, particularly when travelling and overseas
  • Check yourself for symptoms before you leave home. If you feel unwell or have a rash or sores, do not attend the event or venue. Self-isolate and seek medical attention.
  • Consider the event you are planning to attend and how much skin-to-skin contact is likely to happen.
  • Festivals, concerts, or other events when people are fully clothed are low risk, but close physical contact (like kissing) may spread Monkeypox.
  • Parties, clubs, or other events when less clothing is worn and have a higher likelihood of skin-to-skin contact has some risk. Avoid rashes and sores you see on others and minimise skin-to-skin contact.
  • Sex parties, saunas, sex on premises venues, and other events in enclosed spaces with intimate sexual contact carry a higher risk of Monkeypox transmission, read below for tips to reduce risk during sex and intimate contact.
During sex:

It’s always important to be self-aware and in the know when it comes to our health. So, monitor for symptoms before, during and after sex. If you or a partner has Monkeypox, the best way to protect yourself and others is to avoid any skin-to-skin contact, especially with any rash, lesions or sores. Self-isolate and seek medical attention immediately.

Ways to reduce your risk of monkeypox during sex include:

  • Using virtual methods (e.g. phone or webcam) with no person-to-person contact
  • Masturbate together without touching each other
  • Reduce as much skin-to-skin contact as possible by leaving clothing on
  • Avoid kissing
  • Avoid sharing sex toys
  • Use a condom during sex for at least 8 weeks after recovery from Monkeypox
  • Practice good hygiene after sex such as washing your hands and sex toys
  • Exchange contact information with your sexual partners to assist with contact tracing if needed.

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 Monkeypox symptoms, particularly an unusual rash, should seek medical advice by calling their GP clinic to organise a telehealth appointment in the first instance, or they can phone the Canberra Sexual Health Clinic on (02) 5124 2184. Anyone with symptoms should stay at home.

Remember: Do not attend a health service in the first instance – be sure to call ahead.

If you are planning to travel overseas…

If you are planning to travel overseas, it is important to stay informed and remain aware of any Monkeypox news and developments. Follow public health alerts and advice from local health authorities of the countries you are visiting and stay up to date with event updates before and after visiting any large events.

Exercise caution and be aware if you plan to attend sex parties or sex on premises venues (SOPVs), particularly in countries where there are identified cases of Monkeypox. You can reduce your risk of contracting Monkeypox by avoiding contact with people who are unwell or have any of the listed symptoms. This includes skin-to-skin contact, sexual contact, and contact with clothing, bedding or objects that have been in contact with or used by people with Monkeypox.

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

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

There is very limited evidence on Monkeypox in people living with HIV. At the moment, people living with HIV should follow the same advice as the general population.

Should evidence emerge that people with supressed immune systems are at greater risk of Monkeypox, updated information and advice will be made available.

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

A large number of cases detected overseas are among gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men. This population is often careful about their sexual health and seek regular sexual health screening. Because Monkeypox 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 Monkeypox 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. Anyone can get or pass on Monkeypox regardless of their sexuality.

Where can I get more information?

Here are some sources of information:

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