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Monkeypox: what's going on?

Published: 24 May 2022 Tags: sex, sexual health, monkeypox By Lauren Duffy

Monkeypox is a viral infection which is usually spread by animals. It has been shown to spread amongst people during very close contact. It is rare in the UK, but currently there are a number of cases in the UK and some other European countries and North American countries, mainly in men who have sex with men. The numbers of people with monkeypox are still very small.

The main symptom of monkeypox is a rash, usually on the face, genitals, and/or hands. The rash is a vesicular rash and will change over time. If you have monkeypox, you may also have a headache, muscle aches, a fever, or fatigue.

Monkeypox is usually a self-limiting illness, which means it will get better by itself within a few weeks. People diagnosed with monkeypox in the UK are being asked to isolate, with some being treated in a specialist hospital to avoid spreading the infection, and for treatment of symptoms. The contacts of confirmed cases are being traced and may be asked to isolate if there is a risk of them contracting the virus.

Monkeypox is spread through skin-to-skin or close contact, which means it can be passed on during sex, but it is not known to be sexually transmitted. It can be passed on by touching bedding, towels, or clothes used by somebody with a rash caused by monkeypox, or rarely through coughs and sneezes of a person with monkeypox.

It is important that everyone is aware of monkeypox symptoms. Even if your rash is not monkeypox, other infections such as herpes and syphilis can cause rashes which need treatment. Rashes are common and most will not be caused by monkeypox, but may still require treatment. It is a good idea to speak to a medical professional if you have any new rash.

If you have a new rash on your body, especially on your face or genitals, or if you have been in contact with somebody who has monkeypox, contact a sexual health service, GP, or 111 by phone. Don’t attend in person unless asked to do so. If you have other life-threatening symptoms, such as difficulty in breathing, chest pain or signs of a stroke, call 999 or attend A&E, but tell them you have a rash as soon as possible.

You can read more about reducing the risks of catching monkeypox and other infections during sex here.

Does monkeypox only affect men who have sex with men?

No. Anybody can get monkeypox, and everybody should be aware of the symptoms. However, monkeypox is currently disproportionately affecting men who have sex with men because it is believed to be spreading in sexual networks.

Is monkeypox an STI?

No. You can get monkeypox from close contact with somebody who has it, which may occur during sex or in non-sexual situations. It is not known that monkeypox can be sexually transmitted.

Where can I get more information?

There is lots of information online, but not all of it is accurate! It's important to stick to trusted sources to make sure you're getting the facts. Some good sources include: