Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link

Monkeypox

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Sep 2022| Content last modified Sep 2022
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION
Get the full details
Topic Resources

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is an infection caused by the monkeypox virus. The monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as the virus that causes smallpox Smallpox Smallpox is a highly contagious, very deadly disease caused by the variola virus. The disease is now considered eliminated. There have been no cases of smallpox since 1977. People can acquire... read more Smallpox . But, monkeypox is less serious than smallpox. Monkeypox is not related to chicken pox.

  • Monkeypox can cause a rash that looks like pimples or blisters

  • Symptoms usually last 2 to 4 weeks

  • Monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal contact

  • Most cases of monkeypox don't need specific treatment, but some cases are treated with medicines

  • A vaccine to prevent monkeypox is available

  • Monkeypox is rarely fatal

In 2022, monkeypox cases were reported in countries that do not usually have monkeypox infections. Before 2022, monkeypox most often caused disease in Central and West Africa.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

A rash is the most common symptom of monkeypox. The monkeypox rash:

  • May be painful or itchy

  • Begins as flat, red spots

  • Turns into raised blisters that look like pimples

  • Often starts on or near your genitals or in your mouth

  • Can also be on your hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth

  • Crusts and scabs over before healing

Other symptoms may occur before, during, or after the rash appears:

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Headache

  • Muscle aches

  • Backache

  • Feeling extremely tired

  • Swollen lymph nodes (sometimes called "swollen glands")

Symptoms may start 1 to 3 weeks after you get infected. You can spread the virus to someone else from the time symptoms start. You stop being able to spread the virus once all lesions have crusted over, scabs have fallen off, and you have healthy skin where the scabs had been. This usually takes 2 to 4 weeks.

Monkeypox

How can doctors tell if I have monkeypox?

If you have a rash that looks like a monkeypox rash, your doctor will have you tested for monkeypox.

The test is done on samples from the rash.

You may also have a blood test.

How do doctors treat monkeypox?

Most people recover fully within 2 to 4 weeks without treatment.

Doctors may treat your symptoms with pain medicines, fluids, and wound care to help you feel more comfortable.

How can I prevent monkeypox?

A vaccine to prevent monkeypox is available.

You should get vaccinated if you've been exposed to monkeypox.

Some people are at higher risk than other people of getting monkeypox. Higher risk people should get vaccinated, including people who:

  • Have been identified by public health officials as a contact of someone with monkeypox

  • Have had sex with someone who was diagnosed with monkeypox within the past 2 weeks

  • Had multiple sex partners in the past 2 weeks in an area with known monkeypox

  • Have jobs that may expose them to monkeypox, such as certain lab or healthcare workers

If you should get vaccinated, ask your doctor or local health department where you can find the vaccine.

If you have monkeypox, you should:

  • Stay at home and away from other people until a fresh layer of skin has formed where your scabs used to be

  • Avoid direct physical contact with other people and animals

  • Not share personal items, such as bed linens, towels, clothing, drinking glasses, or eating utensils

  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and items

  • Wear a mask if close contact with others is necessary

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION
CLICK HERE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL VERSION
quiz link

Test your knowledge

Take a Quiz!
iOS ANDROID
iOS ANDROID
iOS ANDROID
TOP