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Symptoms to Check to See if You Have Monkeypox

Is it monkeypox, flu, or COVID-19? Here’s how to tell.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Monkeypox is spreading across the US, with 72 cases being reported across 18 states—this is a steep rise from 19 confirmed cases at the beginning of June. "We need everybody to step up their game, because if we're going to contain it, we need a real ramping-up of efforts across the board," says epidemiologist and AIDS activist Gregg Gonsalves, PhD. "We're walking the line between containment and persistent spread, and containment would be better." Here are five sure symptoms of monkeypox, according to experts. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss Already Had COVID? These Symptoms May "Never Go Away".


Monkeypox Rash and Blisters

Woman removing adhesive plaster from the wound after blood test injection

A rash that looks similar to chickenpox usually appears on the face before spreading to the rest of the body. The rash may then turn into pus-filled blisters. "We're seeing more cases where the rash begins in the genital area — which is not new, that has always been there — but it's more frequent now and sometimes it tends to stay there," says Dr. Rosamund Lewis, Head of the Smallpox Secretariat at the WHO. This is when people are most infectious, experts warn. 

"Right now we're not aware of a real risk for transmission other than when a person has an active rash," says Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC's High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology division.


Monkeypox Has Flu-like Symptoms

Sick woman with flu at home

While monkeypox symptoms closely mirror those of flu, the rash and swollen lymph nodes make it more likely to be monkeypox. "It can take anywhere from five to 21 days for someone to become sick with monkeypox after they've been exposed," says Emily Landon, MD. "Sometimes a person with monkeypox will feel like they're coming down with a cold or flu days before their rash develops. These symptoms include headaches, fevers, muscle and body aches, and fatigue. They may also have swollen lymph nodes."


How Is Monkeypox Spread?

couple in live holding hads while lying in bed together

"Monkeypox spreads through close contact—living with someone, intimate contact like sexual activity," says Saad Omer, PhD, director of Yale Institute for Global Health and professor of medicine (infectious diseases). "When people have sexual contact, they have to be in proximity to each other. So it's not necessarily sexually transmitted, but that's one kind of intimate contact. If you are living with someone, sharing a room or bed with someone, that's the kind of stuff we are concerned about when it comes to transmission."


Is Monkeypox Dangerous?

happy family spending time together

"Monkeypox is mostly a mild, self-limiting disease lasting two-to-three weeks. However, in some cases, it can cause death," says Ed Feil, professor of microbial evolution at The Milner Centre for Evolution, University of Bath. "According to the WHO, the fatality rate "in recent times" has been around 3% to 6%. The west African monkeypox virus is considered to be milder than the central African one. Monkeypox tends to cause more serious disease in people who are immunocompromised – such as those undergoing chemotherapy – and children. There have been no deaths from monkeypox in the current worldwide outbreak, but, according to the Daily Telegraph, one child in the UK is in intensive care with the disease."


Who Is Most At Risk?

Barefoot girl standing on tiptoe to hug her man at home

"Unlike previous outbreaks, some of the people who are currently being infected with monkeypox are people who identify as men who've had sexual contact with men and reported new partners in the last month," says Dr. Landon. "However, cases aren't limited to one sex or sexual orientation, and there are reports of household contacts being infected. This makes it challenging to diagnose monkeypox because doctors may mistake skin lesions for more common infections. There's good reason to believe other cases may have gone undiagnosed."


How to Stay Safe Out There


Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan