Mpox (also known as "monkeypox" or "MPV") is a rare, but potentially serious viral illness that can be transmitted from person to person through direct contact with bodily fluids or mpox lesions/rash.
While the current level of mpox activity in the United States is higher than what we normally see, the risk to the general population is low. People with mpox in the current outbreak generally reports having close, sustained physical contact with other people who have mpox. It's important to be aware of the signs of mpox and contact a health care provider ASAP if you are exposed or have symptoms.
While anyone can catch mpox if they have close contact with someone who has mpox, many of those affected in the current outbreaks are gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men.
Symptoms of mpox can include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.
- Swollen lymph nodes
The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash. If you experience any unexplained rash or other symptoms, contact your healthcare provider.
Mpox spreads in a few ways.
- Mpox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including:
- Direct contact with mpox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with mpox.
- Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with mpox.
- Contact with respiratory secretions.
- This direct contact can happen during intimate contact, including:
- Oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) of a person with mpox.
- Hugging, massage, and kissing.
- Prolonged face-to-face contact.
- Touching fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with mpox and that have not been disinfected, such as bedding, towels, fetish gear, and sex toys.
- A pregnant person can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta.
It's also possible for people to get mpox from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal.
Mpox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. People who do not have mpox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others. At this time, it is not known if mpox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids.
Mpox has NOT been shown to spread through brief casual contact, such as being in the same area, having casual conversation, or briefly touching shared items like doorknobs. People who do not have Mpox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others.
People more likely to get mpox include:
- People who have been identified by public health officials as a contact of someone with mpox.
- People who are aware that one of their sexual partners in the past 2 weeks has been diagnosed with mpox.
- People who had multiple sexual partners in the past 2 weeks in an area with known mpox.
- People whose job may expose them to orthopoxvisuses, such as:
- Laboratory workers who perform testing for orthopoxviruses
- Laboratory workers who handle cultures or animals with orthopoxviruses
- Some designated healthcare or public health workers.
Everyone can take the following steps to prevent getting mpox:
- Reduce your number of sexual partners.
- Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you believe you came into contact with someone who has tested positive for mpox.
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like mpox.
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with mpox.
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with mpox.
- Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with mpox.
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with mpox.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- In Central and West Africa, avoid contact with animals that can spread mpox virus, usually rodents and primates. Also, avoid sick or dead animals, as well as bedding or other materials they have touched.
- Healthcare providers treating potentially-infected patients should ensure that the patient is properly isolated and that the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is used.
If you are sick with mpox, follow CDC guidance on how to isolate and disinfect at home to avoid exposing others.
Anyone with a rash that looks like mpox should talk to their healthcare provider, even if they don’t think they had contact with someone who has mpox. If there are no known mpox contacts in your household, remember to ask your doctor what else this rash could be.
Many healthcare providers, urgent care centers, and commercial labs offer mpox testing for patients. While Carteret County Health Department (CCHD) offers mpox testing, priority is given to high-risk patients and those without insurance.
Antiviral treatment is made available to patients who test positive for mpox and meet the requirements for treatment. CCHD is working with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) to provide mpox treatment and vaccination for those individuals who qualify. CCHD is following CDC and NCDHHS recommendations that vaccine is administered to:
- Anyone of any sexual orientation or gender identity who has had multiple, unknown, or new sexual partners, including those considered higher risk: gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, and immunocompromised individuals; or
- Anyone of any sexual orientation or gender identity who are aware that one or more of their sexual partners has been exposed to mpox.
Anyone who believes they are eligible for vaccination can call 252-728-8500 to schedule an appointment. Operators are standing by Monday - Friday during regular business hours.
Individuals with health/medical questions about mpox should first contact their healthcare provider. Individuals may also call the Health Department at 252-728-8500.
Considerations for Children: At this time, the risk of mpox to children and adolescents in the United States is low. Parents and healthcare providers should consider other common rashes when evaluating the needs for mpox testing in children due to the frequency of more common rashes and the possibility of a false positive test.
CDC: What You Need to Know about Monkeypox if You are a Teen or Young Adult