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Information about monkeypox including symptoms, what to do if you have them, prevention measures and how to get vaccinated.

Published: 27 July 2022

Last updated: 27 July 2022

Monkeypox is a rare infectious disease, but there are a growing number of cases in the UK. It is passed on by very close contact with someone with monkeypox blisters or scabs such as through kissing, cuddling or holding hands, sex, sharing items like clothing, bedding and towels or via the coughs and sneezes of a person with monkeypox when they’re close to you. The risk to the UK population is low and most people recover within a few weeks.

Anyone can catch it. The majority of monkeypox cases so far have been in men who have sex with men. However, anyone who has had close contact with someone with symptoms is at risk of getting monkeypox.

Signs and symptoms

  • Recent unexpected and unusual spots, ulcers or blisters anywhere on your body
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Chills and exhaustion
  • Headaches
  • Swollen glands

What to do if you have monkeypox symptoms

Please contact a sexual health clinic if you have a rash with blisters and you’ve been either:

  • in close contact, including sexual contact, with someone who has or might have monkeypox (even if they’ve not been tested yet) in the past 3 weeks
  • to West or Central Africa in the past 3 weeks

Stay at home and avoid close contact with other people until you've been told what to do. Please call the clinic before visiting, do not go to a sexual health clinic without contacting them first. Tell the person you speak to if you've had close contact with someone who has or might have monkeypox, or if you've recently travelled to central or west Africa.

Stay at home and call 111 for advice if you're not able to contact a sexual health clinic. Visit the NHS website for more information.

How to avoid getting and passing on monkeypox

Although monkeypox is rare, there are things you can do to reduce your chance of getting it and passing it on:

  • wash your hands with soap and water regularly or use hand sanitiser
  • talk to sexual partners about their sexual health and any symptoms they may have
  • be aware of the symptoms of monkeypox if you are sexually active, especially if you have new sexual partners
  • take a break from sex and intimate contact if you have symptoms of monkeypox until you get seen by a doctor and told you are no longer at risk of passing it on

Vaccination to protect against monkeypox

Monkeypox is caused by a similar virus to smallpox. The smallpox (MVA) vaccine should give a good level of protection against monkeypox.

A smallpox vaccination is being offered to people who are most at risk of infection right now to help protect them against monkeypox. There is a limited supply of the MVA vaccine, so initially, one dose is being offered to those at highest risk first. As more vaccine supplies become available, more people will be offered the first dose of the vaccine. Additional supplies of vaccine are expected soon and those next in line will be offered it as soon as soon as it becomes available.

If you're at risk of exposure, your local NHS service will contact you and offer you a vaccine.

Find out more