Public Health Agency

Monkeypox (mpox) is a rare disease that is caused by infection with mpox virus. It is usually a mild self-limiting illness and most people recover within a few weeks.

Symptoms of mpox

  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • backache
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • chills and exhaustion

A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body including the genitals. The rash changes and goes through different stages. It can look like chickenpox or syphilis, before finally forming a scab which later falls off.

How you catch mpox

The infection can be passed on through close contact, including sex, with someone with the infection or contact with clothing or linens used by a person who has mpox. Risks of exposure include:

  • exposure to a confirmed or probable case in the 21 days before symptom onset
  • history of travel to an area where monkeypox is endemic, such as;
    • countries of Central and West Africa including Benin
    • Cameroon
    • the Central African Republic
    • the Democratic Republic of the Congo
    • Gabon
    • Cote d’Ivoire
    • Liberia, Nigeria
    • the Republic of the Congo
    • Sierra Leone
    • South Sudan
    • or where there is a current outbreak in the 21 days before symptom onset*
  • gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men (GBMSM)

*Recent cases have been reported across Europe, North America, South America, Canada, Australia, Israel and UAE.

Vaccination to help protect against mpox

The vaccine is recommended to people at higher risk of coming into contact with mpox. This includes:

  • gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) and some trans and non-binary people who have multiple partners, have group sex, attend sex on premises venues or have had an STI in the past year, for example chlamydia, gonorrhoea or syphilis
  • staff working in sex on premises venues
  • some healthcare workers in high risk settings where they may care for a patient with mpox

A single dose of vaccine should be offered as soon as possible. A second dose may be offered at least 28 days after the first dose for those at risk of ongoing mpox exposure. 

Where you can get the vaccine

Gay and bisexual men, and other men who have sex with men, as well as trans and non-binary people at higher risk can get the vaccine through sexual health clinics are offering the MVA vaccine.

Healthcare workers at higher risk will be offered the vaccine from their employer.

Getting tested

If you think you have been at risk of exposure to mpox and have unusual rashes or lesions on any part of your body, especially your genitalia, you should contact your local healthcare provider or GUM clinic without delay if you have concerns. Phone first ahead of a visit to a healthcare facility.

Most recent cases in England and Europe have been in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, so if this applies to you, the PHA is particularly encouraging you to be alert to the symptoms and seek help if concerned. Your call or discussion will be treated sensitively and confidentially.