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Mpox (monkeypox)

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

Mpox vaccinations have been extended in London following recent spike in cases.

Mpox is a rare infection most commonly found in west or central Africa. There has been a sustained reduction in mpox case numbers across England and vaccination has been successful in helping to control the outbreak. However, London has seen a recent spike in cases with most in those who had not been vaccinated.

It is passed on by very close contact with someone with mpox 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 mpox 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 mpox 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 mpox.

Signs and symptoms

  • Recent unexpected and unusual spots, ulcers or blisters anywhere on your body
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Back ache
  • Joint pain
  • Chills and exhaustion
  • Headaches
  • Swollen glands
  • You may also have anal pain, or bleeding from your bottom

What to do if you have mpox symptoms

Please contact a sexual health clinic if you have a rash with blisters, anal pain or bleeding from your bottom and you’ve either:

  • been in close contact, including sexual contact, with someone who has or might have mpox (even if they’ve not been tested yet) in the past 3 weeks
  • had one or more new sexual partners in the past 3 weeks
  • been 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 mpox, 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 mpox

Although mpox 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 mpox 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 mpox until you get seen by a doctor and told you are no longer at risk of passing it on

Vaccination to protect against mpox

The mpox vaccination programme was due to close at the end of July, however vaccinations will now be available beyond this date in London after 11 new cases were diagnosed. People who are eligible for the vaccine can book a London-based appointment using the NHS vaccination finder

Any remaining eligible people who have not yet had both doses of the vaccine are encouraged to book their vaccinations without delay.

Mpox is caused by a similar virus to smallpox. The smallpox (MVA) vaccine should give a good level of protection against mpox. A smallpox vaccination is being offered to people who are most at risk of infection right now to help protect them against mpox. Second doses are offered from around three months after the first dose to maximise protection. People should get vaccinated at the earliest opportunity and book by now later than the above dates.

The vaccination programme is currently focussed on men who have sex with men who:

  • have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection in the last year
  • regularly have sex with new partners
  • are current PrEP users

Vaccine supplies are good, so please contact your local sexual health service to get vaccinated if you are eligible without delay.

You can check the website of our local sexual health service, 56 Dean Street for more information on the vaccine.

Find out more

Published: 27 July 2022

Last updated: 26 July 2023