How is Mpox Transmitted?
What we know: Mpox is commonly spread through contact with sores or blisters of people who have mpox.
The main mode of transmission driving the current outbreak is close skin-to-skin contact during sex. However, it may also be transmitted through items like bedding or towels that have mpox virus on them. Infrequently, mpox may be spread through respiratory droplets such as coughs and sneezes during close, face-to-face contact with a person who has mpox. The recent cases among our communities are likely due in part to shared sexual/ social networks, as well as large events that may have facilitated transmission. These events have had some sex-on-premises, making it hard to know whether mpox was spread through sex or through being at large events.
What is still unclear: Mpox can be transmitted via sexually associated skin-to-skin contact and thus is considered a sexually associated infection. In addition, mpox virus has been detected in semen. The main mode of transmission is still considered to be skin-to-skin contact with lesions, though transmission via semen may be possible. Research is currently underway to determine if condom use can help prevent transmission of mpox during sex.
Is Mpox Severe?
What we Know: Cases of mpox can range from mild to severe. Examples might include everything from one or two itchy/uncomfortable pox blisters to more severe cases with the entire face, hands, mouth, genitals, and anus covered with incredibly painful and itchy skin lesions accompanied with intense fever and intense pain that requires treatment and/or pain control. Original reports that described mpox as “mild” are now being updated to reflect what we’ve seen on the ground: each person’s situation is different, and some people have experienced severely painful cases.
For some people, contracting mpox has meant having to take time off work to avoid close contact with others, manage pain and recover. This can affect income and a person’s ability to provide for themselves and loved ones. Some employees have been forced by their employer to supply doctors’ notes indicating if they are able to be at work, a requirement that is not supported by public health.
To learn more about the effects of mpox including first-hand accounts, a longtime community advocate has created a website to document theirs and other’s experiences – check it out here – igotmpox.ca.
What are the symptoms of mpox?
The most common symptoms of mpox include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, and swollen lymph nodes. This is followed or accompanied by the development of a grouping of lesions or rash which can last for two to three or four weeks. The rash can be found on the face, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, eyes, mouth, throat, groin, and genital and/or anal regions of the body. The number of lesions can range from one to many. Lesions begin flat, then fill with liquid before they crust over, dry up and scabs fall off, with a fresh layer of skin forming underneath.
Symptoms typically last two to three weeks and usually go away on their own or with supportive care, such as medication for pain or fever. People remain infectious until all of the lesions have crusted over, the scabs fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed underneath.
-World Health Organization & BC Centre for Disease Control