What is MPOX (Monkeypox)?
MPOX as a viral infection. 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.
What are the symptoms of MPOX (Monkeypox)?
MPOX 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. MPOX 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). MPOX 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 MPOX (Monkeypox) transmitted?
MPOX is transmitted through very close contact with someone who has the virus (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).
MPOX isn't a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but the close physical contact during sex can be a pathway for transmission to happen. Certain body fluids, like fluid, pus or blood from sores and scabs are particularly infectious. Sores in the mouth can also be infectious, which means that the virus can spread through saliva.
How is MPOX (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 MPOX (Monkeypox)?
Yes! A vaccine called JYNNEOS is approved for use in Australia and can prevent the spread and severity of the MPOX virus. To be fully vaccinated, two doses of the vaccine are needed at least 28 days apart. You will have the strongest protection from two weeks after the second vaccine.
For more information about the MPOX vaccine in the ACT, visit ACT Health.
Who can get the MPOX (Monkeypox) vaccine?
People who are currently eligible include:
Sexually active men (cis and trans) who are gay, bisexual or have sex with other men, particularly those:
- Who enjoy group sex or attend saunas and other sex on premises venues (SOPVs)
- Who are living with HIV
- Who are using PrEP
- Who have had a recent STI
- Sexual partners of the people above
- Sex workers
- The vaccine can also be used as post-exposure prevention for anyone who has been a close contact of someone with monkeypox in the past 14 days. ACT Health will advise on the need for post-exposure vaccination if you have been identified as a contact of someone with MPOX infection.
For more information about the MPOX vaccine in the ACT, visit ACT Health.
Where can I get the MPOX (Monkeypox) vaccine?
Vaccinations are available at Canberra Sexual Health Centre, the Interchange Health Co-operative and Ochre Medical Centre Bruce.
- Canberra Sexual Health Centre – call (02) 5124 2184
- Interchange Health Co-operative – call (02) 6247 5742 or online at www.ihco.net.au/book-online
- Ochre Medical Centre Bruce – call (02) 6180 8500
Further details about vaccine clinics and making a booking can be found under MPOX vaccination clinics. If you are outside of the ACT, you can find other MPOX vaccination clinics in Australia at Emen8.
Clinics may have limited appointments and be responding to a high volume of calls. Your patience and courtesy while contacting them is greatly appreciated.
What can I do to prevent MPOX (Monkeypox)?
Vaccination is one way you can prevent an MPOX infection. Even if vaccinated, it’s still important to take steps to reduce your risk of exposure or spreading MPOX as there is still a risk of infection following vaccination.
You can reduce your risk of contracting MPOX by:
- Avoiding contact, including sexual contact, with people who are unwell or have MPOX 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 MPOX.
- 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 MPOX.
- 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 MPOX transmission, read below for tips to reduce risk during sex and intimate contact.
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 MPOX, 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 MPOX during sex include:
- Limit the number of people you have sex with, including creating a 'sex bubble' or closing open relationships in the short term. The less people you play with, the less likely you are to come into contact with the virus.
- 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
- Avoid using spit for lube
- Use a condom during sex
- 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 and who develop any MPOX 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 MPOX news and developments. Vaccination is the most effective tool for MPOX prevention. If you are planning to travel, vaccination is recommended 4-6 weeks before departure. 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 MPOX. You can reduce your risk of contracting MPOX 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 MPOX.
As always, practice good hygiene, self-isolate if unwell and seek medical attention if you develop any symptoms.
People living with HIV who are on effective antiretroviral treatment face no higher risk than those who are HIV negative. However, if someone has a significantly weakened immune system and isn't taking HIV antiviral drugs, MPOX can be more severe and last longer.
Should evidence emerge that people with suppressed immune systems are at greater risk of MPOX, updated information and advice will be made available.
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 MPOX 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 MPOX 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 MPOX regardless of their sexuality.
Where can I get more information?
Here are some sources of information: