MPOX 101 - Play Safe
Use this button to quickly leave the website
Quick Exit
Visit the blog

Chances are you’ve heard about about mpox (previously referred to as monkeypox or MPXV) over the last few months.

There’s been some information on the news, but not enough to really understand what it is and whether you need to worry about it. But never fear, today we’re bringing you up to speed. Consider this your intro to mpox!

What is mpox (also known as MPXV or monkeypox)?

Mpox (also known as ‘monkeypox’ and MPXV) is a virus that is spread mainly through skin-to-skin contact, or close contact with someone who has mpox. Most people develop symptoms 1-2 weeks from when they were exposed, but it can take up to 21 days for symptoms to appear. Most people experience a mild illness and recover within a few weeks. 

Mpox can cause a rash and is often accompanied by a fever, headache, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes. Some people may experience all of these symptoms, others just a few. The rash or sores often appear in areas that are hard to see, such as the genitals or in the mouth, but can also be found on the face, arms, chest, back and legs. For some people the rash or sores can look like pimples, for others it looks more like blisters.

Why is everyone talking about mpox?

In early May 2022 an international outbreak of mpox was reported and in July 2022, Australia declared mpox a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance.

Currently overall globally, the number of mpox cases is trending down. Based on the latest risk assessment, the overall risk of mpox infection is assessed as moderate for men who have sex with men, and low for the broader population. However, in some regions such as central and South America, mpox cases appear to be trending upwards.

How is mpox spread?

Mpox is mainly spread from one person to another by direct skin-to-skin contact. 

It can also be spread by breathing in droplets that have been breathed out by someone who has mpox and through contact with an infected person’s bedding or clothing, but this is rare. 

Most cases in Australia have been acquired overseas, but a small number of people have caught it locally.

Who can get mpox?

Anyone in close contact with someone infected with mpox can contract it.

At this stage, most of those infected with mpox in NSW have been cis and trans men who have sex with men, but it’s important to remember that anyone can get or pass on mpox, regardless of their sexuality. Stigmatising people because of an infection or disease is never okay. 

How do I know if I have mpox?

Mpox causes a rash and is often accompanied by a fever, headache, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes. Some people may experience all of these symptoms, others just a few. 

Keep an eye out for any of these symptoms, especially if you:

  • have attended any gatherings involving skin-to-skin contact (dance parties, sex parties, clubs etc)
  • have recently returned from an overseas location with a lot of mpox cases (USA, Europe and South America).

If you have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for mpox, you’ll get a call from the NSW Public Health Unit to let you know.

How is mpox treated?

Most people infected with mpox only experience mild symptoms that get better in a few weeks without treatment. If you are at high risk of complications, if you’re immunocompromised for instance, your doctor will let you know and set you up with some supportive treatment options.

How can I minimise my risk against mpox?

There are a number of ways you can reduce your risk of contracting mpox including:

  • Avoiding close contact with people who have mpox. 
  • Avoiding contact with any items like clothing, bedding or towels that may have been in contact with a person infected with mpox.
  • Practicing good hygiene after sex such as washing your hands and keeping sex toys clean.
  • Swapping contact info with your sexual partners to help with contact tracing if needed.
  • If you’re eligible, get vaccinated (we talk more about this below)

Check out more tips from our friends at ACON here.

Can I get vaccinated against mpox?

Given the recent surge of cases worldwide, there is currently a global shortage of mpox vaccines, which is why people who are at highest risk are being vaccinated first. 

In NSW, if you’re considered ‘higher risk’ for mpox infection, you are likely eligible for the mpox vaccine. The vaccine is currently available to:

  • all sexually active gay and bisexual men (cis and trans)
  • sex workers 
  • sexual partners of the people above

If that’s you, go ahead and book a mpox vaccination appointment here.

If you are not eligible for the vaccine – it’s likely that you’re at ‘low risk’ for mpox infection. 

For more information, check out the NSW Health mpox vaccination page here.

What should I do if I think I have mpox?

If you have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone infected with mpox you need to self-isolate and call your GP or local sexual health clinic for advice on next steps.

Remember, mpox is very treatable, but self-isolating until you receive the all-clear will help keep your friends and family safe. 

If you have any questions about mpox, call NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624.

Do you have questions about sexual health? Why not join the conversation on the Play Safe sex and relationship forum or ask Nurse Nettie a question. Or find out more about STI testing and STI treatment in Sydney and NSW, you’ll find all the information you need here