How Monkeypox Spreads: Understanding Transmission

How monkeypox spreads, and what measures you can take to prevent infection.

How Monkeypox Spreads: Understanding Transmission
How does Monkeypox sprea? Photo by engin akyurt / Unsplash

Monkeypox, commonly referred to as mpox, is a viral disease that belongs to the same family as smallpox. It is a rare disease that occurs primarily in remote parts of Central and West Africa, but cases have been reported in other parts of the world, including the United States. In this blog post, we will discuss how monkeypox spreads and what measures you can take to prevent infection.

What is Monkeypox? A Comprehensive Guide to Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease that affects humans and is transmitted from animals.

How Monkeypox Spreads

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. People who do not have monkeypox symptoms cannot spread the virus to others.

Monkeypox can spread between people mostly “through direct contact with infectious rash, sores, scabs, saliva, and respiratory secretions.” It can be passed on through extended physical skin-to-skin contact, including between sexual partners during intimate, close contact. This includes activities like kissing, cuddling, or touching parts of the body with monkeypox sores.

Monkeypox sores can also appear on the mouth, vagina, or anus, and it can spread through any kind of oral, vaginal, or anal sex by touching the genitals or mouth of a person with symptoms of monkeypox who may have sores inside the body.

The risk of exposure is not limited to skin contact; the virus can also be spread through objects like clothes, bed sheets, sex toys, fetish gear, and other surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.

Prevention Measures

To prevent the spread of monkeypox, the following measures can be taken:

Avoid skin-to-skin contact

Sharing direct and personal skin-to-skin contact should be avoided, and there is a higher likelihood of contracting monkeypox at events hosted in enclosed spaces where people can be expected to have minimal to no clothing. Large outdoor events where people are fully clothed offer you more safety by minimizing your risk of exposure through skin-to-skin contact.


Think deeply about sexual activity and how/if to have sex. Do not participate in any intimate activities if you have flu-like symptoms or have developed any unusual rashes or lesions on your body. It is also advisable to use condoms during sexual activity to prevent the spread of the virus.

Hand washing

Practice good hand washing, especially after encountering a person with monkeypox.

Avoid infected surfaces

Avoid contact with unwashed materials and objects that have been exposed to direct and intimate contact with someone who has monkeypox. The virus can be spread through prolonged respiratory secretions or contact with a lesion or rash, not only person-to-person but also through contaminated objects that have not been properly cleaned.

Mask up

Masks are encouraged to help prevent the spread through respiratory droplets in situations with face-to-face contact.


Quarantine yourself from others if you have become exposed to or infected with monkeypox. Avoid contact with those who have the infection.


The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has ramped up testing and vaccine strategy with more than 200k doses to be distributed in the coming months. Health officials recommend talking to your healthcare provider about getting the smallpox vaccine within two weeks of exposure to someone diagnosed with monkeypox.

Monkeypox Testing in the United States
February 2023 Monkeypox virus testing in the United States.


Monkeypox is a rare disease that can be transmitted through direct and intimate contact with an infected person or contaminated surfaces. Taking the necessary prevention measures such as avoiding skin-to-skin contact, practicing good hand hygiene, wearing masks, and avoiding contact with infected surfaces can help prevent the spread of the virus.