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Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by a virus not commonly seen in the United States, that is spread through close physical contact.

The disease can make you sick, including a rash, which may look like bumps on your skin, blisters, or ulcers. Some people have a flu-like illness before they develop a rash. Infections with the strain of monkeypox virus identified in the recent U.S. outbreak are rarely fatal, and most people recover in 2-4 weeks.

Vaccine for monkeypox can help to prevent disease or make it less severe. If you think you may have been exposed or have symptoms, contact your health provider immediately. Visit our monkeypox vaccine page for more information.

Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk. To date, all of the patients diagnosed with monkeypox in King County have been among men who reported sexual or close intimate contact with other men, sometimes with anonymous or multiple partners. Anyone who has high risk contact with a person with monkeypox can be infected, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Monkeypox vaccine

Get more information on monkeypox vaccine, including data on doses received and distributed.


People who get sick usually develop a painful rash and experience flu-like symptoms, including: fever, headache, back and muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and general exhaustion.

Most people with monkeypox recover in 2-4 weeks, but the disease can be serious, especially for immunocompromised people, children, and pregnant people.

  • Symptoms usually start within two weeks of exposure to the virus but can start up to three weeks later.

  • Within 1-3 days of symptoms beginning, people usually develop a rash or sores.

  • The sores might be located on or near the genitals or anus, but sometimes occur in other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or in the mouth. Sores often go through several stages before healing, which takes about 3 weeks.

  • Symptoms may include a single lesion or lesions on the genitals, anus and surrounding area, lesions in the mouth, and symptoms of anal or rectal pain or bleeding.

Examples of Monkeypox rashes

Images of monkeypox on skin surfaces
Photo credit: NHS England High Consequence Infectious Diseases Network

If you have symptoms

  • Contact your healthcare provider immediately for an evaluation if you develop a new, unexplained, rash or lesions on any part of the body and avoid sex or other close, intimate contact until you have been checked out.

  • Avoid gatherings, especially if they involve close, personal, skin-to-skin contact or prolonged face-to-face contact.

  • Talk to your partner about any recent illness and be aware of new or unexplained sores or rashes on your body or your partner’s body, including rashes on the genitals and anus.

  • People with new rashes should also be aware that the rate of syphilis is rising in King County and nationally.

If you don’t have a provider or health insurance, you can contact Public Health’s Access and Outreach program, 1-800-756-5437 to be connected to a medical provider. In King County, symptomatic patients can be evaluated at the Public Health – Seattle & King County Sexual Health Clinic at Harborview, open M/W/TH/F, 7:30 am – 6:00 pm and Tuesday 9:30 am – 6:00 pm. For general questions about Monkeypox in King County call our Public Information Call Center: 206-477-3977.

How monkeypox spreads

Monkeypox is usually spread from one person to another through close, often skin-to skin contact. Routes of transmission include:

  • Direct contact with monkeypox rash, sores, or scabs from a person with monkeypox. CDC believes this is currently the most common way that monkeypox is spreading in the U.S.
  • Monkeypox can be transmitted during sex through skin-to-skin and other intimate sexual contact.
  • Contact with objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
  • Through respiratory droplets or oral fluids (saliva) through kissing and other face-to-face contact.

Vaccine for monkeypox

Monkeypox vaccine can be an effective tool to help prevent disease before exposure or make it less severe after exposure. Jynneos is the main vaccine being distributed at this time.

It can take up to three weeks after being exposed to the virus before symptoms begin. CDC recommends that the vaccine be given within 4 days from the date of exposure for the best chance to prevent disease. If given between 4 and 14 days after exposure, vaccination may reduce symptoms but may not prevent disease.

If you think you may have been exposed, or if you have symptoms of monkeypox, contact your health care provider immediately for evaluation.

Considerations for lowering risk of monkeypox

A person’s risk for monkeypox is determined by their behavior and the people, or network of people, they come into physical contact with.

If you or your partners feel sick or have any rashes or sores, avoid sex and gatherings, especially if they involve close skin-to-skin contact or prolonged face-to-face contact, and see a healthcare provider to get checked out. This is always a good plan, even if a rash or illness is not related to monkeypox.

Steps to take

Here are some things people can consider to decrease their risk for monkeypox:

  • Decreasing the number of sex and intimate contact partners.
  • Not going to places like bathhouses or other public sex venues.
  • Avoiding raves, parties, or clubs where people wear minimal clothing and where there is direct, intimate, skin-to-skin contact. For those who attend these events or venues, avoid coming into contact with rashes or sores you see on others and minimize skin-to-skin contact when possible.
  • Events where attendees are fully clothed and unlikely to share skin-to-skin contact are safer. However, attendees should be mindful of activities (like kissing) that might spread monkeypox.

As this is a newer outbreak, public health entities nationally and internationally are still learning about the potential networks or behaviors that may put people at increased risk and we will continue to share information with the community as we learn more.

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