Mpox (monkeypox) factsheet
Organization: Public Health Agency of Canada
Date published: July 2023
Mpox (monkeypox) Facts
Mpox is a viral infection that often appears with a rash that may be painful. Most people recover on their own after a few weeks. In some circumstances, people can become very sick and could die.
People usually develop symptoms 5 to 21 days after being exposed to the virus. Symptoms typically last 14 to 28 days.
- Symptoms often include a rash or sores that can affect any part of the body, including:
- Face and mouth
- Arms and legs
- Hands and feet
- Anus, rectum, and genitals
- The rash or sores can be accompanied by general symptoms, such as:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle, joint or back pain
How mpox is passed
Mpox can be passed from person-to-person through contact with the lesions or scabs of a person who has mpox. These lesions or scabs may be found on the skin or mucosal surfaces (such as the eyes, mouth, throat, genitals, anus, or rectum).
It may also be possible for it to be passed through:
- Contact with bodily fluids, such as blood, saliva, and semen.
- Sexual activity, including oral and skin-to-skin contact
- Direct contact with personal items that a person who has mpox uses, such as sex toys, clothing, bedding, towels and toothbrushes.
- Respiratory particles from talking, breathing, coughing or sneezing, during close contact.
Emerging evidence suggests that some people who have mpox may be contagious 1 to 4 days before their symptoms begin. This is known as pre-symptomatic transmission. At this time, it's not yet known how often pre-symptomatic transmission occurs.
There's also a chance that people who are pregnant and have mpox can pass the virus to their fetus through the placenta.
You may be advised to get tested for mpox based on a combination of factors, such as:
- Signs and symptoms.
- Risk factors, such as exposure to a case or travel history.
Contact a health care provider or your local public health authority for more information on getting assessed and tested.
Vaccines and treatment
The vaccine Imvamune®is authorized by Health Canada for adults 18 years of age and older. Two doses of Imvamune®are recommended for people who are at highest risk of exposure to mpox, before they are exposed to the virus.
- Men who have sex with men (MSM) and individuals who have sex with MSM and who meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Having two or more sexual partners or who are in a relationship where at least one of the partners has other sexual partners
- Having had a confirmed sexually transmitted infection in the past year
- Individuals who self-identify as sex workers, regardless of self-identified sex or gender
- Staff or volunteers in sex-on-premises venues where workers may have contact with objects or materials that may be contaminated with the mpox virus without the use of personal protective equipment
Vaccination is also recommended for people who have had a potential exposure and in settings where transmission is happening. For those who have had a probable exposure, it is important to get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally within 4 days of exposure. Immunization programs vary across the provinces and territories so reach out to a healthcare provider or your local public health authority to learn more.
Treatment for mpox includes wound care, pain control, and treatment of bacterial superinfections and other complications.
Risks of getting mpox
Most cases in Canada so far are in people with multiple sexual partners, mostly men who report sexual contact with other men. It's important to stress that the risk of exposure to the virus is not limited to any group or setting. Anyone can get or pass on mpox if they come into close contact with someone who has the virus, regardless of sex, race, gender or sexual orientation. We continue to monitor for and investigate cases of mpox in Canada. We will update this information as it becomes available.
Preventing mpox transmission
You can lower your risk of getting or passing on mpox with the following measures:
- Get vaccinated if eligible.
- Avoid sharing lube, sex toys, fetish gear, douching equipment, toothbrushes, substance use equipment like pipes and syringes, bedding, towels and clothing.
- If sharing, use condoms on sex toys, and change them out between sexual partners.
- Limit your number of sexual partners.
- Avoid close physical contact, including sexual and skin-to-skin contact, with someone who has mpox.
- Check yourself regularly for symptoms like unusual lesions, rash, and fever. If in doubt, isolate from others, get tested, and contact your local health provider for advice.
- Stay home and limit contact with others if you have symptoms, or as recommended by your health care provider.
- Maintain good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
- Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces and objects.
- Stay informed by accessing trusted sources of information.
If you have mpox
If you have mpox, your local public health authority may require or suggest you isolate to prevent passing it on to others. Follow their advice on isolation including the length of time they recommend. The isolation period usually ends when the rash has healed (all the scabs have fallen off on their own and the skin is healing).
To lower the risk of passing on the virus to others when isolating, you should avoid:
- Leaving your home unless you need urgent medical care.
- Contact with people, especially those who are at risk of more severe disease, such as young children, individuals with weakened immune systems, and anyone who is pregnant.
- Directly touching people, including through sexual contact.
- Contact with animals, including pets, livestock and wildlife, as mpox can be passed from humans to animals.
- Sharing personal items (such as razors, needles, sex toys, and toothbrushes).
You should also practise the following measures when isolating:
- Wear a well-fitting medical mask when around others.
- Clean your hands and cover coughs and sneezes.
- Clean and disinfect all surfaces and objects that you've had contact with.
- Handle your own laundry and utensils, unless you're unable to do so.
- Do not donate blood or any other bodily fluids (including sperm) or tissue.
- Postpone non-urgent medical visits and procedures.
- Seek advice from a health care provider if you're breastfeeding.
At this time, we're still researching how mpox is transmitted, including the possible risks after a person has recovered. Contact your local public health authority for more information on safer sex practices after recovering from mpox.
If you've been exposed
Contact your local public health authority if you may have been exposed to someone with mpox. Your local public health authority may also notify you if you've been exposed. They will provide you with instructions on what to do, which may vary depending on your exposure risk level.
In some instances, you may be instructed to get tested for the virus or go to a vaccination clinic to receive a vaccination.
Unless you have been instructed otherwise, you can continue routine daily activities, while taking some precautions for 21 days after you've been exposed:
- Self-monitor for symptoms of mpox.
- Avoid taking medications that are known to lower fever, as they may mask an early symptom of mpox. For example, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and acetylsalicylic acid.
- Continue to cover coughs and sneezes and clean your hands regularly.
- If symptoms develop, isolate immediately, and follow the instructions of your local public health authority.
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