Page last updated on May 18, 2023
Mpox is part of the same family of viruses that causes smallpox. The symptoms are not as severe and, unlike smallpox, mpox is rarely fatal. The current worldwide outbreak includes thousands of cases in the U.S., including some in Oregon and Washington County.
Cases of mpox have been decreasing since the fall of 2022, but a recent cluster in Chicago is causing concern that cases may also start to rise in other parts of the country.
Prior to this outbreak, nearly all outbreaks were associated with international travel or exposure to imported animals. During this outbreak many people are not travelers, but are exposed in their local community primarily by having close, skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Most people recover in 2-4 weeks without treatment. For some people, the sores can be very painful.
Children, pregnant people and people who are immunocompromised are at greater risk of complications and severe disease from mpox. This includes people living with HIV whose disease is not fully treated (virally suppressed).
Mpox cases in most areas of the U.S. have been decreasing over the past year. A recent cluster of cases in Chicago is causing concern that mpox cases may also start to rise in other parts of the country.
Video: Watch WHO's Science in 5: Monkeypox for more information. Many resources on this page were developed before WHO renamed the virus in late November citing racist stigma. The information is still relevant, the name of the virus has changed.
Questions about mpox?
- Read answers in English, Spanish and other languages (scroll to bottom).
- Read the CDC page in English and Spanish.
How it spreads
Mpox does not spread easily. It is most often spread by skin-to-skin contact with the rash/sores of an infected person. This can happen during sex or other prolonged close contact.
Video: Watch a four-minute video from the CDC, 5 Things Sexually Active People Need to Know About Monkeypox. Watch a similar video in Spanish.
It can also spread through:
- Respiratory droplets, during extended face-to-face contact (more than 3 hours)
- Contact with bodily fluids
- Contact with fluid from the pox
- Contaminated bedding or clothing
The virus does not spread as easily as COVID-19 and scientists believe people can only spread the virus while they have symptoms. The current global outbreak is largely affecting gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, but anyone can get the virus. Black or Hispanic/Latinx men are also disproportionately affected.
Symptoms of the virus can include:
- rash or sores
- swollen lymph nodes
Not everyone will have all of these symptoms, but everyone will get a rash or sores. The length of time between being exposed and getting symptoms is usually from 6 to 13 days, but can take as long as 21 days after exposure.
The rash usually starts as raised bumps that fill with fluid, turn into open sores, then scab over and disappear. This process usually takes 2-4 weeks. The rash can occur anywhere on the body, including face, hands, genital area and around the anus. Health officials say that in this outbreak many people are experiencing more mild flu-like symptoms, no fever and the rash is more frequently showing up on the genitals and anus. The sores can be very painful and can lead to complications.
What to do if you have symptoms or were exposed
If you develop symptoms of mpox, isolate yourself away from other people until you can be evaluated by a health care provider. If you have a rash, keep it covered and wear a mask around others. Make an appointment with your health care provider for evaluation and testing. Seek care even if you aren't sure you had contact with someone who has mpox. If you don't have a provider or are having trouble making an appointment, call us at 503-846-8851.
Steps to take if you think you may have been exposed:
Steps to take if a clinician recommends you get a test:
Preventing the spread
- Avoid sex or other intimate contact if you or your partner have new skin lesions, fever, swollen lymph nodes or otherwise suspect exposure to mpox. Condoms do not prevent the spread of the virus.
- Avoid contact with materials such as bedding that have been used by someone infected with mpox.
- Wash hands thoroughly if you have contact with someone with the virus.
- If you get symptoms, isolate yourself at home until you can connect with a health care provider.
If you are sick follow this CDC advice for care, protecting household members and notifying close contacts.
Vaccines and treatment
The Jynneos vaccine is available for people who have been exposed to mpox and for people at high risk of possible exposure. The vaccine is a 2-dose vaccine given four weeks apart and it's very important to get both doses of vaccine to be protected. If you got your first dose more than four weeks ago, you don't have to start over, you can get the second dose now.
Please call 503-988-8939 to find out if the vaccine is recommended for you and to make an appointment near you. This call center makes appointments for many vaccinators in the metro area, including locations in Washington County.
Many health systems, including Kaiser Permanente, Oregon Health & Science University, Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, Legacy Health and PRISM Health are also offering vaccine to patients for whom the vaccine is recommended. If you are a patient, reach out to your provider or health system to see if you qualify.
You can also use this CDC vaccine locator and search by zip code for a vaccination location.
The Jynneos vaccine is given intradermally (in the skin, rather than into muscle or fat), and causes redness and swelling. It may also cause discomfort and itching. These reactions are normal and can last a week or more as the body mounts an immune reaction.
Most people recover on their own in 2-4 weeks without treatment. Antiviral treatments are available for those who are sick.
See these pages for more information:
Advice for businesses
The risk to most people remains low, but there are some social groups and employees who come into regular skin-to-skin contact with clients that may face a higher risk. If your business includes skin-to-skin or close personal contact with clients or items that their skin has touched, you can take extra steps to prevent the spread.
See our advice for business page to learn:
- which business might be at risk
- what employees should do if they've been exposed
- how to talk to clients
- cleaning recommendations
Prevention and education resources
Building Healthy Communities Online (Gay Men's Health Resources & Help)
Advice for schools (Oregon Department of Education)
Flier: Monkeypox and safer sex