Monkeypox — know the signs and symptoms

By Emen8, updated 2 weeks ago in Health / Sexual health

man touches swollen lymph nodes with suspected monkeypox symptoms

Monkeypox (also known as MPOX, MPX or MPXV) is a viral infection that can affect anyone. It can make you feel unwell and develop painful rashes, lesions or sores. Here’s your guide to monkeypox symptoms, including flu-like symptoms, monkeypox rash and monkeypox blisters.

Even with local transmissions of the virus in Australia as recent as April 2024, there are ways for you to stay safe. Find your guide to monkeypox transmission, vaccination and prevention in What is monkeypox and what does it mean for guys in Australia?

Vaccinating protects you and others from monkeypox. Find your nearest monkeypox vaccination location with our interactive map.

Monkeypox symptoms

Common signs of monkeypox can include:

  • Rashes or lesions (bumps that turn into pimples, blisters or sores and may burst to form ulcers or scabs)
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Backache
  • Muscle aches and joint pains
  • Chills

Less common signs of monkeypox can include:

  • Sore throat
  • Rectal pain and bleeding (inside the ass)
  • Swollen penis
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Blisters or sores inside the mouth or on the tongue

Symptoms can range from mildly unwell to very unwell, with pox-like sores causing pain that may require medical attention.

Not everyone who gets monkeypox will experience all symptoms or symptoms in the same order. Most people with monkeypox will get a rash or lesions. Others may get these before developing flu-like symptoms. Some people may not develop any flu-like symptoms at all.

People living with HIV who are not on treatment may experience more severe or prolonged symptoms.

“Not everyone who gets monkeypox will experience all symptoms or symptoms in the same order.”

In the 2022 global outbreak, typical monkeypox symptoms differ from previous outbreaks. In the current outbreak, the monkeypox rash may start in the groin, genital region, or around the anus (asshole). Sometimes the rash stays in the area it starts in without spreading further.

Evidence from the current global outbreak indicates that some cases of monkeypox may be asymptomatic — meaning someone can have monkeypox without experiencing any symptoms.

man checks for monkeypox symptoms in nightclub bathroom mirror

What does the monkeypox rash look like?

From person to person, rashes, lesions, or sores can look different. They might look like pimples or blisters. Rashes can be mistaken for herpes or syphilis symptoms.

Lesions can vary in size and number from as little as just one lesion to several hundred. Monkeypox lesions can look like blisters similar to chickenpox but larger.

Rashes, lesions or sores might be in hard-to-see areas, including around the genitals, around or inside the ass (anal and rectal areas), or in the mouth and throat. They may also be on the face, palms, soles of the feet, arms, chest, back and legs.

The rash can be extremely itchy or painful. It typically changes and goes through different stages. First, it might appear as flat lesions, progressing to raised and firm lesions, then filled with fluid before forming a scab, which later falls off. The lesions can cause scarring.

Is monkeypox deadly?

Deaths from monkeypox are rare but have occurred during the current global outbreak in over 20 countries, including USA, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Spain, Chile, India, Cuba and Belgium.

To date, over 160 deaths have occurred in countries that have not historically reported monkeypox. Some people who died had severely weakened immune systems and serious illnesses other than monkeypox. There have been no deaths from monkeypox in Australia.

What is the monkeypox incubation period?

An incubation period is the time it takes from acquiring a disease to its symptoms showing.

“The monkeypox incubation period typically ranges from 7 to 14 days.”

The monkeypox incubation period typically ranges from 7 to 14 days. In some cases, symptoms may show as soon as 1 day. In other cases, it may take up to 21 days after exposure for symptoms to show.

How do you know if you have monkeypox?

If you have a rash, lesions or sores, healthcare providers can test to see if it might be caused by monkeypox or a different infection. You must have visible symptoms to perform a swab test. There isn’t a blood test for monkeypox.

If you develop symptoms, avoid contact with others and seek medical attention immediately. Call your doctor or local sexual health provider via phone ahead of visiting. Do not attend a health service without calling ahead.

man stands alone in nightclub

Is there a monkeypox treatment, and how long does monkeypox recovery take?

Monkeypox is infectious from when symptoms begin until the lesions heal and the scabs fall off. Complete recovery may take 2 to 4 weeks.

As a self-limiting disease, monkeypox doesn’t usually need treatment. However, lesions can be painful and require pain medication.

Treatments for monkeypox are available for people with severe symptoms or health complications, such as those with weakened immune systems. Talk to your doctor or sexual health service to discuss what’s best for you.

What can I do to avoid monkeypox?

A monkeypox vaccine is available. Vaccinating is the best way to protect yourself and others.

One dose of vaccine is good at protecting you from monkeypox. It takes 2 weeks for the vaccine to provide good protection. Maximum protection occurs around 2 weeks after your second dose. You must wait a minimum of 28 days before receiving your second dose.

“A monkeypox vaccine is available. Vaccinating is the best way to protect yourself and others.”

For more information and to understand your eligibility, check out Get your monkeypox shot — what you need to know about the monkeypox vaccine. Find your nearest monkeypox vaccination location with our interactive map.

Discover other ways you can reduce your risk of getting monkeypox from sex or partying at events in What is monkeypox, and what does it mean for guys in Australia?

More information

Find information about monkeypox in your state or territory: