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.

It is also known as 'mpox'.

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 found 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.

If you've been identified as a close contact of 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.

Monkeypox blisters
photo of monkeypox blisters on skin
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 identified as a close contact of someone who has monkeypox

Gay men, bisexual men, and men who have sex with men, and transgender people 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 cure 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 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

Counselling service for people affected by monkeypox

We are working with the MPOWER Programme to give free online counselling to people who:

  • have been diagnosed with monkeypox
  • are experiencing anxiety or distress about monkeypox - with or without a diagnosis

Referral to counselling service

You can refer yourself to this service by emailing the MPOWER team.

Include your first name and mobile phone number.

Your healthcare professional can also refer you.

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

Page last reviewed: 17 October 2022
Next review due: 17 October 2025