Last update: October 6, 2023
Mpox is a disease caused by a virus not commonly seen in the United States. It usually spreads through close physical contact. Symptoms include a rash and often a flu-like illness. The rash can be very painful and leave scars.
Anyone can get mpox. Most, but not all, of the cases currently in the U.S. have been among men who have sex with men. Because they are the most impacted by this outbreak, this group is considered at higher risk of getting mpox.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent mpox infection. It's best to get it before you're exposed.
JYNNEOS is an FDA-approved vaccine against mpox. It is given in 2 doses at least 28 days apart. Getting both doses offers the most protection.
The vaccine is recommended for those at greater risk of getting mpox, or complications from mpox. Not everyone needs it.
You should get a vaccine if your healthcare provider recommends it, or if you:
- Had direct and extended skin-to-skin contact with someone with mpox
- Are living with HIV
- Take or are eligible for HIV PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis, or take medication to prevent an infection)
- Were diagnosed with gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis in the last year
- Had sex with an anonymous partner, in a group, or attended a sex-on-site venue in the last year
- Exchange sex for money, goods, or services
- Work in a sex-on-site venue or dance in adult entertainment venues
Need help finding a vaccine? Call 503-988-8939.
Who is most at risk of serious illness?
The disease can be more serious for:
- Those who are immunocompromised (due to medications, cancer treatment, organ transplants, HIV and other conditions)
- Those who are pregnant
- Those with skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, impetigo, severe acne, or herpes
How it spreads
The mpox virus doesn’t spread easily. It is most often spread by skin-to-skin contact with the rash/sores of an infected person. This can happen during sex or other direct, prolonged close contact.
It can also spread through:
- Respiratory droplets, during extended face-to-face contact (more than 3 hours)
- Contact with bodily fluids
- Contact with contaminated bedding, clothing, or other items
Although vaccines are the best way to prevent mpox, no vaccine is 100% effective. Taking additional precautions can stop it from spreading.
- Avoid prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with others if you or your partner has a rash.
- Watch for symptoms, especially if you have a new partners or think you were exposed.
- Check your body for sores—they could be anywhere (hands, face, mouth, genital area, anus, butt)
- Wear gloves when handling materials such as bedding that have been used by someone with the virus.
- Wash hands thoroughly if you have contact with someone with mpox.
- If you get symptoms, seek testing and stay home until you can connect with a care provider.
Condoms do not prevent the spread of the virus but do prevent spread of other infections.
Remember, if someone in your social group has mpox, you are considered at higher risk.
- Mpox prevention for those in higher risk groups
- Preventing mpox at raves, parties, clubs and festivals
Rash or sores
Everyone with mpox gets a rash or sores (pox). The rash can look similar to other things like acne, bug bites, or some sexually transmitted diseases. The rash may be in places that are hard to see. It can be painful or itchy and occur anywhere on the body including
- Genital area
The rash usually starts as raised bumps that then fill with fluid (clear to cloudy), turn into open sores, then scab over and disappear. This process usually takes 2-4 weeks.
Some people also get flu-like symptoms before the rash appears, such as:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle aches
Exposed to mpox? Think you might have it?
Contact your doctor or clinic if you develop a new, unexplained, rash or sores on any part of your body. Cover your rash with clothing or bandages if possible. Avoid:
- Sex or other close, intimate contact until you have been checked out.
- Gatherings, especially if they involve close, personal, skin-to-skin contact.
If you don’t have a healthcare provider, call 211 for help finding one.
If you think you have been exposed to mpox (OHA) (PDF)
Ask your doctor or clinic for mpox testing if you have a new rash or skin sores, and:
- You know you have been in close contact with someone with mpox
- You had close skin-to-skin contact with someone in a social network where mpox is known to be going around (hookup websites, apps, clubs and parties for men who have sex with men)
If you can’t find testing or don’t have a provider, call 211 for help finding care.
- Follow instructions from your healthcare provider
- Continue to isolate until your rash is completely resolved, usually 2-4 weeks from the first day of symptoms.
- Cover skin lesions as much as you can. For example, wear long sleeves and pants, and bandages over sores on exposed skin. Or gloves over hand sores to reduce contact with others.
- Avoid contact with animals, including pets, if possible.
If you get a call from us, please take our call. We can help make sure that people you may have been in contact with can get a vaccine. We will work with you to do this respectfully and confidentially.
Most people recover on their own in 2-4 weeks without treatment. Your care provider can help you manage your symptoms.
Immune compromised individuals, pregnant people, children and babies, and people with active skin conditions are most at risk for severe illness, and may need treatment.
You might also need treatment if you have severe symptoms or complications.
Learning that a new disease is spreading in a specific community can be upsetting and traumatizing. Especially if you're already experiencing stigma.
You can call the Multnomah County Behavioral Health Call Center for support at any time. 503-988-4888 or 800-716-9769. Free. Interpretation in any language.
If you have questions or concerns regarding sexual health and sexually transmitted infections, call the Multnomah County STI Clinic at 503-988-3700.
- Oregon Health Authority
- Center for Disease Control & Prevention Mpox
- About mpox: Frequently Asked Questions (CDC)
- Mpox Facts for People Who are Sexually Active (PDF)