Who is at risk for contracting mpox?

Man holding armMpox spreads through close, physical contact between people. This means anyone can get mpox. However, based on the current outbreak, certain populations are being affected by mpox more than others, including men who have sex with men (MSM).

Based on previous outbreaks of mpox around the world, some groups may also be at heightened risk for severe outcomes if they contract mpox. This includes people with weakened immune systems, elderly New Yorkers, young children under 8 years of age, and pregnant people.

What are the symptoms of mpox?

Symptoms of mpox can include:

  • Rashes, bumps, or blisters on or around the genitals or in other areas like your hands, feet, chest, or face.
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, and fatigue. These symptoms may occur before or after the rash appears, or not at all.

How does mpox spread?

Mpox is spread through close, physical contact between individuals. This includes:

  • Direct contact with mpox sores or rashes on an individual who has mpox.
  • Respiratory droplets or oral fluids from someone with mpox, particularly for those who have close contact with someone or are around them for a long period of time.

It can also be spread through contact with objects or fabrics (e.g., clothing, bedding, towels) that have been used by someone with mpox.

How can I protect myself?

New Yorkers can protect themselves by taking simple steps, which are especially important for those who may be at higher risk for severe disease, including people with weakened immune systems:

  • Ask your sexual partners whether they have a rash or other symptoms consistent with mpox.
  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a rash or other mpox-related symptoms.
  • If you are exposed or experience symptoms, make sure to reach out to a health care provider.
  • Follow reputable sources of health information, including NYSDOH, CDC, and your local county health department.

What should I do if I was exposed or have symptoms consistent with mpox?

New Yorkers who experience symptoms consistent with mpox, such as characteristic rashes or lesions, should contact their health care provider for a risk assessment. This includes anyone who traveled to countries where mpox cases have been reported or has had contact with someone who has a similar rash, or who received a diagnosis of suspected or confirmed mpox.

Are there treatments available?

Antiviral medications exist to treat mpox, which may be appropriate for some people. Vaccines exist that can help reduce the chance and severity of infection in those who have been exposed.

New Yorkers who develop a rash or skin lesions should be sure to:

  • Keep rash areas clean and dry to protect against secondary infections
  • Be conscious of sun exposure to avoid discoloring exposed lesions
  • Talk to a healthcare provider about over-the-counter oral antihistamines and topical agents such as calamine lotion, cortisone 10, petroleum jelly, and lidocaine cream or gels
  • Consider over-the-counter stool softeners to help reduce peri-anal discomfort

New Yorkers who experience a painful rash or skin lesion should contact a healthcare provider about medication to help with pain management. Prescription medicated mouthwashes and topical gels can provide pain relief and keep rashes and lesions clean, and are widely available.

If you are a healthcare provider, please see NYSDOH’s Provider Information page which includes the latest guidance for clinicians on mpox treatment.

If you have been diagnosed or suspect that you have mpox, contact your healthcare provider to get a referral to one of these mpox provider treatment network sites (outside of NYC) to be evaluated for potential treatment

Why are health officials concerned?

Health officials are concerned because mpox is spreading, and cases of mpox are presenting, in ways not typically seen in past mpox outbreaks. Although the current strain of mpox that is circulating in the U.S. is rarely fatal, symptoms can be extremely painful, and people might have permanent scarring resulting from the rash.

What is NYSDOH doing to help?

NYSDOH has alerted New York health care providers so they have information regarding reporting and case testing – which can be performed at NYSDOH’s Wadsworth Center laboratory – should any of their patients present with symptoms consistent with mpox.

NYSDOH, in partnership with local and federal public health authorities, will continue learning more and communicating openly with New Yorkers.

Why are cases classified as “confirmed orthopoxvirus/mpox” cases? What does orthopoxvirus have to do with mpox?

Specimens from suspected mpox cases are typically sent by New York providers to the New York State and New York City public health laboratories. These laboratories conduct testing for orthopoxvirus, the family of viruses to which mpox belongs.

Cases that are confirmed positive for orthopoxvirus are considered probable mpox cases because of the rarity of all orthopoxviruses, generally, and the presentation of symptoms, in confirmed orthopoxvirus cases, being consistent with mpox. Confirmed orthopoxvirus cases, or probable mpox cases, may be further confirmed as mpox through CDC testing.