Mpox (monkeypox): How it spreads, prevention and risks
On this page
- How mpox (monkeypox) spreads
- Risk of getting mpox (monkeypox)
- Preventing the spread of mpox (monkeypox)
How mpox (monkeypox) spreads
Current evidence suggests that mpox (monkeypox) spreads in 3 ways:
- From person-to-person
- From animals to humans
- Through direct contact with contaminated objects
Health authorities across Canada and internationally are monitoring this situation as it evolves. We're still collecting information about how the virus spreads at this time, including looking into:
- atypical infection presentations
- different modes of transmission
- the possibility of transmission without symptoms
Mpox can spread from person to person through contact with lesions or scabs of a person with mpox. These lesions or scabs may be found on the skin or mucosal surfaces, such as:
It can also spread through contact with body fluids of a person with mpox, such as:
You can be exposed to mpox in different situations, such as:
- when providing care at home
- when living in the same household
- during sexual contact, including oral and non-penetrative contact
The virus may spread through respiratory particles, such as from:
- coughing or sneezing
- exposure during close contact
However, based on the current evidence, the role respiratory particles play in transmission is unknown. We're working with international partners to improve our understanding of the ways the virus could be transmitted.
We don't know yet if a person with mpox can spread the virus to others before their symptoms develop.
If you're pregnant, there's a chance you could pass on the virus to your fetus through the placenta.
Mpox (monkeypox): Symptoms, getting tested, what to do if you have monkeypox or were exposed
You can also get mpox by coming into direct contact with personal items a person with mpox uses, including:
- other shared objects, for example:
- sex toys
Learn more about:
- Mpox (monkeypox): Recommendations on hand and environmental hygiene
- Monkeypox: Steps for removing contaminated clothing (infographic)
Animal to human
Animals don't currently play a role in the spread of mpox in Canada.
However, transmission to people from wild rodents and monkeys has been reported in West and Central Africa.
There was also an mpox outbreak in the US in 2003 after infected small mammals from Africa were imported there for the pet trade. They infected pet prairie dogs that they were housed with, which led to an outbreak of 47 human cases.
Activities that may have spread the virus from infected animals to people in these situations include:
- eating undercooked game meat
- hunting and processing animals for consumption
- exposure to body fluids, such as when cleaning up
- touching or handling live or dead animals, especially if there were bites or scratches while handling
Risk of getting mpox (monkeypox)
Anyone can get and spread mpox if they come into close contact with someone who has the virus, regardless of:
- sexual orientation
Since May 2022, there have been cases in several countries where the disease is not normally found, including Canada.
Person-to-person transmission is currently happening in Canada. Most cases in Canada so far are in people with multiple sexual partners, particularly men who have reported sexual contact with other men. This is in line with international trends. However, it's important to stress that the risk of exposure to the monkeypox virus is not exclusive to any group or setting.
Having multiple sexual partners may increase your overall risk of infection.
Provincial, territorial and local health authorities continue to monitor for and investigate cases of mpox in Canada as the situation evolves. We update this information as it becomes available.
Preventing the spread of mpox (monkeypox)
You can help lower your risk of getting or spreading the monkeypox virus by:
- staying home and limiting contact with others if you have symptoms, or as recommended by your health care provider
- avoiding close physical contact, including sexual contact, with someone who has mpox
- maintaining good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, including:
- wearing a well-fitting mask or
- covering coughs and sneezes with the bend of your arm
- cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces and objects in your home, especially after having visitors
To lower your overall risk of getting and spreading the monkeypox virus, we recommend:
- having fewer sexual partners
- using barrier protection during sexual activity, including:
- dental dams
Learn more about:
- Symptoms of mpox
- Getting tested for infection with monkeypox virus
- Surface disinfectants for emerging viral pathogens
- Care and treatment if you have been diagnosed with mpox
If you operate a non-health care community setting that the public can access, you should:
- assess the risks associated with mpox spreading
- put appropriate measures in place to reduce the risk of mpox spreading in your setting
How operators can reduce the risk of spread of mpox (monkeypox) in community settings
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