What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by a virus (monkeypox virus) not commonly seen in the United States. Monkeypox can cause a rash which may look like pimples or blisters, sometimes with a flu-like illness. 

Prior to May 2022, most human cases occurring outside of Africa were linked to imported animals, international travel to countries where monkeypox is endemic, and/or contact with a person with a confirmed monkeypox virus infection. Recent data, however, suggest that there is now ongoing community transmission in non-endemic countries, including the United States, through direct contact with individuals infected with monkeypox. 

How is monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact including:

  • Direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox. We believe this is currently the most common way that monkeypox is spreading in the U.S.
  • Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
  • Contact with respiratory secretions.

This contact can happen during intimate contact including:

  • Oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) of a person with monkeypox.
  • Hugging, massage, and kissing.
  • Prolonged face-to-face contact.
  • Touching fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with monkeypox and that have not been disinfected, such as bedding, towels, fetish gear, and sex toys.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Monkeypox symptoms usually start within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus. Monkeypox can be spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed. This can take several weeks. You may experience all or only a few of the symptoms of monkeypox:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appear on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.

Most people with monkeypox recover in two to four weeks without needing treatment.


Take the following steps to prevent getting monkeypox:

  • Avoid close, skin to skin contact with the monkeypox rash.
  • Do not touch the rash or scabs of person with monkeypox.
  • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox.
  • Do not share eating utensils or cups.
  • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a sick person.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after contact with sick people.

A person who is sick with monkeypox should isolate at home. If they have an active rash or other symptoms, they should be in a separate room or area from other family members and pets when possible. Additional isolation guidance from the CDC


CDC does not recommend widespread vaccination against monkeypox at this time. However, vaccination may be recommended for some people who:

  • Are close personal contacts of people with monkeypox
  • May have been exposed to the virus
  • May have increased risk of being exposed to the virus, such as people who perform laboratory testing to diagnose monkeypox

What to do if you suspect monkeypox

Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible and let them know you have symptoms or have been exposed to monkeypox. Healthcare providers can provide testing and care for people who are diagnosed with monkeypox. If you do not have a healthcare provider, contact your local health department for guidance.


  • Resources for Healthcare Providers (CDC)
    • Monkeypox is reportable in Wisconsin as a Category I Condition. Immediately consult your local health department as soon as monkeypox is suspected. Clinicians within the city of West Allis or Village of West Milwaukee who suspect a case of monkeypox can call 414-302-8600 (8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.) or 414-302-8000 (outside of business hours) to speak to a West Allis dispatch representative.
    • If indicated, testing for orthopoxvirus will be coordinated by DHS at one of Wisconsin’s Laboratory Response Network (LRN) sites, which include the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH) and the Milwaukee Health Department Laboratory (MHDL). Confirmatory testing for monkeypox virus is conducted at CDC.
  • Resources for Health Departments (CDC)
  • Monkeypox resources from Wisconsin DHS