What You Need To Know

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that usually leads to a mild illness and passes within a few weeks. It is usually associated with close contact with infected animals in countries where the virus is endemic (very common). However, this current outbreak in non-endemic countries is primarily seeing infection spreading from person-to-person through close contact with someone that has monkeypox. While it generally a mild illness, some people with monkeypox can get sick, particularly those with a weak immune system, pregnant people, and young children.

How is Monkeypox transmitted?

Monkeypox does not spread easily between people. Person-to-person transmission may occur through:

  • Very close contact with a person that has a Moneypox skin rash, blisters, or scabs.
  • Contact with clothing, bedding, towels, etc that have been used by a person who has Monkeypox.
  • Breathing in droplets from the coughing or sneezing of someone who has Monkeypox.

It is important to know that Monkeypox is not known to be a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI). Monkeypox is passed on through very close contact, and so intimate / sexual contact can result in transmission. Anyone, regardless of their sexuality, can get Monkeypox.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include:

  • fever (of 38C or higher),
  • headache,
  • muscle aches,
  • backache,
  • swollen lymph nodes,
  • chills & exhaustion.
  • An important symptom to be alert for is an unusual rash or blisters on the face, mouth, hands, feet, genitals or anus.

Images of the different stages of the rash can be found on the HPSC website here

What is the illness like?

Monkeypox is usually a mild self-limiting illness, meaning most people will recover from the virus themselves within a few weeks. Severe illness can happen in small babies, pregnant people and those with weak immune systems.

What is the risk?

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection which usually leads to a mild illness and passes within a few weeks.

Monkeypox is not considered to be very infectious as it requires close contact to spread between people. It is important to note that monkeypox is not known to be a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Transmission occurs through very close contact and so sexual contact (being the most popular kind of close contact) poses a considerable risk. Anyone, regardless of their sexuality, can get or pass on monkeypox.

Current Outbreak of Monkeypox.

Cases of monkeypox are being identified in countries around the World. Ireland has recently identified its first case and there are likely to be more identified, however, work is ongoing to limit the spread of the virus and minimise additional cases. 

Many of the individuals in the current multi-country outbreak are in men who identify as gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men (gbMSM). These cases were diagnosed at sexual health clinics. The reason we are hearing more reports of cases of monkeypox in comunities of gbMSM may be because of positive health-seeking behaviour in our community i.e. we are proactive about our sexual health and seeks sexual healthcare when we experience unusual symptoms. Monkeypox rashes can resemble some sexually transmitted infections, including herpes and syphilis, which may explain why cases in this outbreak are being picked up at sexual health clinics.

While this outbreak is currently disproportionately affecting gay and bisexual men, everyone regardless of their sexuality is being asked to be alert to the symptoms of monkeypox.

What to stay alert for?

There is no need to panic or to become anxious about monkeypox, but it is important to remain alert. Be alert to a new rash or blisters that can be on any part of the body particularly, the face, mouth, hands, feet, genitals or anus. Fever, headache, swollen glands, aches and pains can also be a sign of infection. 

When to seek medical help?

If you are experiencing what you think might be the symptoms of monkeypox contact your local sexual health clinic or GP (general practioner / family doctor) to discuss your symptoms. Do not attend a clinic or your GP without calling ahead first so that they can be prepared for your arrival and offer you the best care. To find your local sexual health clinic click here.

If you need to be seen by a doctor, they will organise an appointment for you and will give you advice on how to get to the clinic. In the meantime, keep your distance from other people and do not engage in sexual contact until you have been seen.

To find the details of your local sexual health clinic click here.

Where can I get more information?

It’s important to get information from a reliable source such as the Health Service Executive (HSE) or Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC). At MPOWER, we are working with these agencies on the response to monkeypox with our partners in the Gay Health Network. We’ll be updating the information on our website if and when the situation changes and the advice is different.

Health Protection Surveillance Centre – Monkeypox – Monkeypox information


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