Skip to main content
State of Wisconsin flag

Official website of the State of Wisconsin

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

HTTPS

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

We have refreshed our website: Tell us what you think

Use the "Site Feedback" link found at the bottom of every webpage. We look forward to hearing from you!

Mpox (Monkeypox): Basic Information

Mpox is a rare but potentially serious disease that is caused by the mpox virus. Mpox virus is from the same family of viruses as the smallpox virus. It is also less severe and transmissible than smallpox. Mpox can spread from infected humans, animals, and materials contaminated with the virus.

Mpox virus is characterized by a new, unexplained rash and skin lesions. It is usually found in Central and West Africa and normally does not spread in the United States. Since May 2022, mpox has been spreading from person to person in countries where the virus is usually not found, including the United States.

Anyone can develop and spread mpox after being exposed to the virus. Based on the current outbreak, certain populations are being affected by mpox more than others. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the virus is impacting some members of LGBTQ community, with a disproportionate impact among men who have sex with men, as well as transgender and nonbinary individuals.

Viruses don’t recognize sexual orientation or gender identity, but because the virus is spreading primarily through close intimate contact, we can expect it to spread faster in communities with smaller social networks. It is important for all Wisconsinites to be aware of the signs and symptoms of mpox. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) encourages anyone who develops any symptoms to contact a healthcare provider, ask about testing, and stay away from others.


Mpox 101

Mpox does not spread easily from person to person. People must have close, sustained contact with an infected person to get the virus. People usually become infected with mpox:

  • By having direct contact with the skin lesions or body fluids of an infected person,
  • Through sharing items, such as bedding or clothing of an infected person, or
  • Through prolonged exposure to an infected person's respiratory secretions.

Mpox can also be spread to people from animals through bites, scratches, preparation of meat or use of a product from an infected animal.

Mpox is typically characterized by a new, unexplained rash that develops into hard, round, fluid or pus-filled skin lesions. Other early symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Muscle aches
  • Chills

The mpox rash usually develops within one to three days after fever. However, some people may experience a rash or sores first, followed by other symptoms.

Some people may also only develop a rash.

Most people who have mpox recover without needing treatment within two to four weeks. While there is no specific treatment for mpox, antiviral medications that have been used to treat smallpox can be used. People who have been exposed to someone with mpox may be eligible to receive a vaccine to prevent the onset of disease or reduce the severity of symptoms. DHS will work with healthcare providers to obtain vaccines and treatment when necessary.

If you were exposed to mpox, monitor for symptoms for 21 days after your date of last exposure. It is important to check your temperature two times per day during your monitoring period. If symptoms begin, contact a doctor immediately and isolate away from others.

You can continue daily activities, like going to work or school, if you do not develop any symptoms. If your partner has mpox, avoid sex or being intimate until all sores have healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with mpox. Standard household cleaning products and disinfectants should be used to wash any surfaces and materials that have been touched by someone who has mpox, followed by hand washing. 

Since mpox is most often spread from person to person, contact tracing is also an important tool that can be used to help limit the spread of disease.


Frequently asked questions

Mpox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness. The mpox virus is from the same family of viruses as the smallpox virus. Mpox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms but are less severe. It is also less transmissible than smallpox and rarely fatal. Since May 14, 2022, mpox has been spreading from person to person in countries where the virus is usually not found, including the United States.

Mpox is typically characterized by a new, unexplained rash that develops into characteristic hard, round, fluid- or pus-filled skin lesions. Other early symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache

The mpox rash develops within one to three days after fever. However, some people may experience a rash or sores first, followed by other symptoms. Some people may also only develop a rash.

The type of mpox virus currently spreading is rarely fatal. It is estimated that over 99% of people who become infected with this type of mpox virus will survive. However, people with a weakened immune system, history of eczema, people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and children under 8 years old may be at a higher risk for experiencing severe disease and death.

It is important for anyone experiencing a new, unexplained rash to notify a doctor. If possible, call ahead before going to a health care facility and notify them that you are concerned about mpox. If you have mpox symptoms, talk with a healthcare provider, ask about getting tested for mpox, isolate at home, and avoid close physical contact until a health care provider can examine you.

If you need assistance finding a free or low-cost health care provider, you are encouraged to call 211 or visit the 211 website for support.

If you test positive for mpox, stay isolated away from others and avoid intimate contact (kissing, touching, any kind of sex) while you are sick. Stay home until any rash has fully resolved, the scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed.

Most people with mpox report having prolonged close contact with someone with mpox. Mpox is unlikely to spread through the air over long distances because the virus is not known to linger in the air. To protect yourself from mpox, take the following actions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Ask your sexual partner(s) if they have a rash or other mpox related symptoms.
  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact, including sex and intimate contact, with someone who has a rash or other symptoms.
  • Consider how much close, skin-to-skin contact is likely to occur at the event you plan to attend.
  • Do not share objects like bedding, towels, clothing, or utensils with someone with mpox.

Mpox does not spread easily from person to person. People must have close sustained contact with an infected person to get the virus. Mpox can spread through:

  • Respiratory or oral secretions
  • Close physical contact
  • Touching sores or body fluids
  • Touching personal belongings that have had contact with sores.

If you are attending a large event or festival, consider how much close, personal, skin to skin contact is likely to occur to help prevent the spread of mpox. Mpox can also spread to people from animals through bites, scratches, preparation of meat, or use of a product from an infected animal.

If you were exposed to mpox, monitor for symptoms for 21 days after your date of last exposure. It is important to check your temperature two times per day during your monitoring period. If symptoms begin, contact a doctor immediately and isolate away from others. You can continue daily activities, like going to work or school, if you do not develop any new symptoms.

If your partner has mpox, avoid sex or being intimate until all sores have healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. Remember to wash any bedding, towels, or clothing that have had contact with the infectious rash or body fluids. Standard household cleaning products and EPA-registered disinfectants should be used to wash any surfaces that have been touched by someone with mpox.

People who have been exposed to someone with mpox may be eligible to receive a vaccine to help prevent the onset of disease or reduce the severity of symptoms. See “Is there a vaccine available?” below.

Most people who have mpox recover without needing treatment within two to four weeks. While there is no specific treatment for mpox, antiviral medications that have been used to treat smallpox can also be used. People who have been exposed to someone with mpox may receive a vaccine depending on their level of exposure to prevent the onset of disease. DHS will work with doctors, local and Tribal health departments, and other health care providers to obtain vaccines and treatments when necessary.

Two smallpox vaccines licensed by the FDA are available to prevent mpox: JYNNEOS, also known as Imvamune or Imvanex, and ACAM2000.

However, due to a limited vaccine supply, DHS is currently following the federal government’s recommendation to prioritize the JYNNEOS vaccine for individuals at the highest risk of infection.

Wisconsinites who meet any of the following criteria can get vaccinated:

  • Known contacts who are identified by public health through case investigation, contact tracing, and risk exposure assessments
  • Presumed contacts who may meet the following criteria:
    • People who know that a sexual partner in the past 14 days was diagnosed with mpox.
  • People considered to have elevated risk of exposure to mpox in the future:
    • Gay men, bisexual men, trans men and women, any men who have sex with men, and gender non-conforming/non-binary individuals who:
      • Have recently had multiple or anonymous sex partners. This may include people living with HIV and people who take HIV pre-exposure because of increased risk of sexually transmitted infections.
      • Have new diagnosis of one or more nationally reportable sexually transmitted diseases (for example, acute HIV, chancroid, chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis).
    • People who attended or had sex at a commercial sex venue or an event or venue where there was known mpox transmission or exposure.
    • Sexual partners of people with the above risks.
    • People who anticipate experiencing the above risks.
  • People in certain occupational exposure risk groups:
    • Clinical laboratory personnel who perform testing to diagnose orthopoxviruses, including those who use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays for diagnosis of orthopoxviruses, including mpox virus.
    • Research laboratory workers who directly handle cultures or animals contaminated or infected with orthopoxviruses that infect humans, including mpox virus, replication-competent Vaccinia virus, or recombinant Vaccinia viruses derived from replication-competent Vaccinia virus strains.Laboratory staff working with lesion swabs that may contain orthopoxviruses. This includes staff that handle swabs of lesions from suspect mpox cases or test for things other than orthopoxviruses, including Varicella zoster virus or Herpes virus. This also includes microbiologists that do standard bacterial cultures from these lesion swabs.
    • Certain health care providers working in sexual health clinics or other specialty settings directly caring for patients with sexually transmitted infections.

People 18 years and older can receive JYNNEOS as either an injection between the skin (intradermally) or beneath the skin (subcutaneously). People under the age of 18 can receive JYNNEOS only as an injection beneath the skin (subcutaneously).

The CDC does not believe that mpox poses a high risk to pets. However, mpox is zoonotic, which means it can spread between animals and people. People with mpox should avoid contact with animals, including pets, domestic animals, and wildlife to prevent the spread of the virus. 

If you have pets, learn more about what do if you or someone in your home has mpox.

Clinical guidance and surveillance information

Find clinical guidance on testing, vaccine administration, reporting, and more on our mpox webpage for health professionals.


Questions about mpox? Contact us! Phone: 608-267-9003 | Fax: 608-261-497

Wisconsin Local Health DepartmentsRegional officesTribal agencies

Last revised December 1, 2022