Written on November 18, 2022 by Gillian (Gigi) Singer, MPH, Sexuality Educator & Certified Sexologist. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Simply put, no, monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD). However, sexual contact with someone who has monkeypox puts you at a high risk of contracting the virus.
The CDC explains that “Monkeypox symptoms usually start within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus. If someone has flu-like symptoms, they will usually develop a rash 1-4 days later” .
The NIAID lists the following as the initial symptoms of monkeypox: fever, headache and body aches, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes, followed by a rash of lesions on the skin .
The identifying feature of the disease is the lesions that occur on the skin that “may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) and could be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth” . The sores tend to look like pimples or blisters and can be extremely painful and itchy before scabbing and healing .
A person infected with monkeypox is contagious at the onset of symptoms until the lesions/rash has fully healed. Note that according to the CDC, “there is no evidence that monkeypox spreads from people with no symptoms” .
Between humans, monkeypox transmits through first-hand contact with the body fluids and/or lesions of an infected person. It can also be transmitted via prolonged face-to-face contact with an infected person and/or contact with an infected person’s contaminated clothing or bedding .
Monkeypox is transmitted from an infected animal to a human through bites, scratches, food preparation of the infected animal, and/or through contact with the infected animal’s body fluids and lesions .
Testing is only recommended if you have a rash or lesions consistent with monkeypox. To test for monkeypox, a healthcare provider will swab the rash and lesions and are tested for the monkeypox virus .
As of now, there is no designated approved treatment for monkeypox viral infections, but antiviral medications are used to help those infected, including orally administrated drugs and injections .
Testing is often free at public health clinics, but other healthcare providers may charge fees.
The CDC names several primary methods to protect yourself from monkeypox . As noted on their website, these methods include:
The “JYNNEOS vaccine is approved for the prevention of smallpox and monkeypox. It is the primary vaccine being used in the U.S. during this outbreak” . It requires two doses that are administered 28-35 days apart and the CDC considers you to be “vaccinated against monkeypox 14 days after you receive your second vaccine dose” .
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) reports: “The monkeypox virus is part of the Orthopoxvirus genus, which also includes variola virus (the cause of smallpox), vaccinia virus, and cowpox virus. Although monkeypox is similar to smallpox, it is much less deadly” .
The first monkeypox infection in a human was reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where many of the reported monkeypox cases occur; the virus is endemic (normally found among particular groups of people or in certain areas) in Central and Western Africa . Cases found outside of these regions are usually associated with international travel or imported animals .
Earlier this year, in 2022, there were outbreaks of monkeypox in 110 total locations—103 of which had not previously reported monkeypox .
The CDC offers “Data show that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) make up most cases in the current outbreak” .
The messaging around the monkeypox outbreaks parallels the stigmatizing messages that were (and continue to be) seen regarding HIV and AIDS. Both have been characterized as conditions that only affect the LGBTQIA+ community, but this is simply untrue. UNAIDS speaks addressed this in a press release: “Experience shows that stigmatizing rhetoric can quickly disable evidence-based response by stoking cycles of fear, driving people away from health services, impeding efforts to identify cases, and encouraging ineffective, punitive measures. We appreciate the LGBTI community for having led the way on raising awareness—and we reiterate that [monkeypox] can affect anyone” .
1. Monkeypox Signs and symptoms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published October 18, 2022. Accessed November 15, 2022.
2. Monkeypox. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. URL. Accessed November 15, 2022.
3. Monkeypox Testing Basics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published August 23, 2022. Accessed November 15, 2022.
4. Monkeypox Treatment. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. URL. Accessed November 15, 2022.
5. Monkeypox Prevention Steps. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published October 31, 2022. Accessed November 15, 2022.
6. JYNNEOS vaccine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published August 30, 2022. Accessed November 15, 2022.
7. 2022 Monkeypox Outbreak Global Map. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published August 4, 2022. Accessed November 15, 2022.
8. Reducing stigma in monkeypox communication and community engagement. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published October 18, 2022. Accessed November 15, 2022.
9. UNAIDS warns that stigmatizing language on Monkeypox jeopardizes public health. UNAIDS. May 2022. URL. Accessed November 15, 2022.