Monkeypox: How it spreads, prevention and risks

On November 28, 2022, the World Health Organization began using ‘mpox’ as the preferred term for monkeypox disease. We’ll be updating our content to reflect this change.

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How monkeypox spreads

Current evidence suggests that monkeypox spreads in 3 ways:

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:


Monkeypox can spread from person-to-person through contact with an infected person's lesions or scabs that may be found on the skin or mucosal surfaces such as:

It may also be possible for it to spread through contact with an infected person's body fluids such as blood, saliva, and semen.

For example:

The virus may spread through respiratory particles, such as from talking, breathing, coughing or sneezing, during close contact. But we're still gathering information on that mode of transmission.

We don't know yet if an infected person with no symptoms can spread the virus to others.

An infected pregnant person may also pass on the virus to their developing fetus through the placenta.

Learn more about:

Contaminated objects

You could also become infected by coming into direct contact with personal items used by an infected person, including:

  • clothing
  • bedding
  • towels
  • other shared objects, for example:
    • razors
    • utensils
    • needles
    • sex toys
    • toothbrushes

Animal to human

Animals don’t currently play a role in the spread of monkeypox in Canada.

However, transmission of monkeypox to people from wild rodents and monkeys has been reported in West and Central Africa.

There was also a monkeypox 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

Learn more about:

Risk of getting monkeypox

Anyone can get infected and spread monkeypox if they come into close contact with someone who has the virus, regardless of:

Since May 2022, there have been cases of monkeypox in several countries where the disease is not normally found, including Canada.

Currently, person-to-person transmission is occurring in Canada. In line with international trends, the majority of cases in Canada to date are men who reported intimate sexual contact with other men. 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 are continuing to monitor for and investigate cases of monkeypox in Canada as the situation evolves. The Public Health Agency of Canada updates this information as it becomes available.

Preventing the spread of monkeypox

You can help reduce your risk of becoming infected with or spreading the monkeypox virus by:

Learn more about:

To lower your overall risk of getting infected with and spreading the monkeypox virus or sexually transmitted infections, we recommend:

If you think you may have been infected with the monkeypox virus, learn more about:

Community settings

If you operate a non-health care community setting that the public can access, you should:

Learn more about:

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