Monkeypox

Monkeypox is a virus. There has recently been an increase in cases in many countries, including Ireland. But the risk of catching it is low.

How you get monkeypox

Monkeypox spreads from person to person through very close contact.

This can include:

  • sexual contact
  • other types of very close contact, for example with people in your household
  • touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash or scabs
  • touching monkeypox skin blisters or scabs
  • the coughs or sneezes of a person with monkeypox when they're very close to you

Anyone can get monkeypox.

But currently, most cases have been in men who are gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men. It's important to be aware of the symptoms if you're in these groups.

Information:

If you've been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox, you'll be contacted by health professionals.

Symptoms of monkeypox

It usually takes between 5 and 21 days for the first symptoms to appear.

The symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • an itchy rash
  • a high temperature (38.5 degrees Celsius or higher)
  • headaches
  • muscle aches
  • back ache
  • swollen glands
  • shivering (chills)
  • exhaustion
  • a cough
  • a runny nose

Some people only have a rash. The rash usually appears 1 to 5 days after the first symptoms. The rash can start on your face, then spreads to other parts of your body. This can include your mouth, the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet.

If monkeypox has been spread through sexual contact, the rash can appear around your bum and penis. It may not spread.

The rash starts as raised spots, which turn into small blisters filled with fluid. These blisters eventually form scabs which later fall off.

image of progression of monkeypox blister. 1 early vesicle 3 millimetres in diameter, 2 small pustule 2 millimetres in diameter, 3 umbilicated pustule 3 to 4 millimetres in diameter, 4 ulcerated lesion 5 millimetres in diameter, 5 crusting of a mature lesion, 6 partially removed scab
Images from the Health Surveillance Protection Centre (HPSC)
images of monkeypox blisters on skin, hairline and hand
Images from the Health Surveillance Protection Centre (HPSC)

The symptoms usually clear up in 2 to 4 weeks.

Occasionally people with a very weak immune system, pregnant women or very young babies can have a more severe illness.

Urgent advice: Contact your local STI clinic or your GP if you have:

  • a rash that looks like monkeypox
  • been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox

Gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men should look out for any unusual rashes or spots on their body, especially their bum and penis.

What to do if you have monkeypox

If you have monkeypox, you will need to self-isolate until your rash is completely healed.

Monkeypox: General advice for infected people who are self-isolating at home (PDF, 2 pages, 295 KB)

Treatment for monkeypox

Monkeypox treatment involves relieving the symptoms. There is no specific medicine available to get rid of monkeypox.

Most people recover in 2 to 4 weeks.

Reduce your risk of getting monkeypox

There are things you can do to reduce your risk of getting monkeypox.

Do

Don't

  • do not share bedding or towels with people who are unwell and may have monkeypox

  • do not have close contact with people who are unwell and may have monkeypox

Monkeypox vaccine

The smallpox vaccine can be used to protect against monkeypox. This is because monkeypox is caused by a similar virus to smallpox. When the smallpox vaccine is used for monkeypox, we call it the monkeypox vaccine.

Who can get a monkeypox vaccine now

You may be offered a vaccine if you are a close contact of someone who has monkeypox.

Health professionals will let you know if you should get a monkeypox vaccine.

Who will be offered a monkeypox vaccine next

Sexual health clinics are identifying people who are at risk of getting monkeypox.

If you are at risk of getting monkeypox, they will offer you the vaccine first.

Doses

If you have been exposed to monkeypox, you will get 1 dose of the monkeypox vaccine.

If you are offered a vaccine because you are at high risk of getting monkeypox, you will get 2 doses of the monkeypox vaccine, 28 days apart.

If you had a smallpox vaccine before, you only need 1 dose of the vaccine. But if you have a weak immune system, you will need 2 doses. Vaccines may be less effective for you than other people.

It takes 14 days after your course of this vaccine for it to work.

Protection from monkeypox

There is a chance you might still get monkeypox, even if you have had the vaccine. But it may reduce any symptoms of monkeypox.


Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Page last reviewed: 8 September 2022
Next review due: 8 September 2025