Monkeypox is caused by a virus (monkeypox virus), which causes fever and rashes. The disease is known to be passed from animals to humans in some African countries.
In the current outbreak (discovered in May 2022), we are seeing infections between humans via close contact with rashes, bodily fluids and droplets. Sexual contact with an infected person carries an increased risk and is the most common means of transmission in the ongoing outbreak, which has so far mainly affected men. Kissing can also entail a risk of infection. In order for droplet infection to occur, close contact is usually required over a long period of time (hours).
The virus has been detected in semen long after a person has recovered. It is uncertain whether this represents live or dead virus and therefore poses an infection risk. It is therefore recommended that you use a condom during intercourse for 12 weeks after you have recovered.
How long can I be infected before symptoms appear?
The time from infection to the development of symptoms varies between 5 and 21 days (normally 6-13 days).
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
The first symptoms are usually fever, fatigue and headaches. Muscle pain and stiffness are common. Some people go on to develop swollen lymph nodes, and, either at the same time or a few days later, an itchy and/or painful rash develops. The rash develops into blisters, which scab and then dry up and fall off. Scarring may occur.
For many people affected by the current outbreak (discovered in May 2022), the rash started around the genitals and the rectal region. The rash can also begin on the face or in the mouth and spread to the rest of the body. It can then resemble chickenpox. Some people also get rashes on their palms and the soles of their feet. The rash can be sparse, with only a few small blisters or ulcers, and may resemble herpes, amongst other things.
If you have had many or new sexual partners, you should pay special attention to the symptoms, including fever, muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, headaches and whether ulcers or blisters develop.
The symptoms normally last 2 to 4 weeks. You are contagious from the onset of symptoms until the scabs have fallen off and new skin has formed underneath (around 3 weeks).
If you are infected with monkeypox, or think you may be infected, you should avoid close contact with others.
Testing, examination and treatment
It is important to contact a doctor who can order a test if you are experiencing symptoms and suspect that you may have been in contact with someone who has monkeypox. It is not possible to take a test to check whether you have monkeypox until you have symptoms.
Most people do not need any treatment beyond symptom relief such as antipyretic/pain-relieving medicine. It is only rarely that serious illness is seen.
In some cases, hospitalisation may be appropriate. Examination, testing and treatment are free of charge.
For further information about monkeypox, visit fhi.no.
The vaccine used against monkeypox is a third-generation smallpox vaccine.This vaccine has not been used much, but it can be given both before and after infection, and it is assumed that it can prevent disease or the development of a more severe form of the disease.
There is currently very limited access to the vaccine globally. It is therefore necessary to apply strict prioritisation and conduct ongoing assessments regarding use of the doses that are available.
More information about the monkeypox vaccine here (Norwegian institute of public health).