What is monkeypox, and what does it mean for guys in Australia?
Monkeypox (also known as MPOX, MPX or MPXV) is a viral infection that can affect anyone. The virus can make you feel unwell, and develop painful rashes, lesions or sores. Local transmissions of the virus are happening in Australia, but there are ways for you to stay safe. Here’s your guide to monkeypox symptoms, transmission, vaccination and prevention.
In this article:
Monkeypox key points
- Monkeypox is a viral infection that transmits through close contact and can affect anyone
- The virus can make you feel unwell and develop painful rashes, lesions or sores
- Most people recover within a few weeks without needing treatment
- Vaccinating is the best way to protect yourself and others
- International travellers should be aware of symptoms and stay up to date with local health advice
- People are advised to monitor for symptoms, including rashes or lesions
- If you think you have monkeypox, self-isolate and call before attending a doctor or sexual health service
- Keep contact details of your sexual partners to assist with any contact tracing
What is monkeypox?
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. The virus usually goes away without needing treatment.
Monkeypox transmits from person to person through contact with lesions or scabs on the skin, body fluids, or contaminated bedding and clothing.
Most local transmission is happening through intimate sexual contact between guys, especially men who have sex with men. Vaccinating is the best way to protect yourself and others. Find your nearest monkeypox vaccination location with our interactive map.
What’s the latest monkeypox situation in Australia?
Since May 2022, there have been at least 150 cases of monkeypox in Australia. Case numbers peaked around September 2022, but the virus continues to circulate and reappear.
Although many cases are among returned international travellers, local transmission is also being reported in Australia. People with or without a history of international travel are urged to be aware of monkeypox symptoms.
Vaccinating is known to help stop monkeypox outbreaks. Reaching full protection from the vaccine takes at least 6 weeks, so book your free vaccination now!
See more in Monkeypox (MPOX) local community transmission in Australia — what you need to know.
What are monkeypox symptoms?
Monkeypox can include flu-like symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache and fatigue, as well as rashes, lesions or sores. People may experience all or only a few of these symptoms, ranging from mildly unwell to very unwell — with pain that needs medical attention.
Rashes, lesions or sores might be in hard-to-see areas, including around genitals, around or inside the ass (anal and rectal areas), or in the mouth and throat. They may also be on the face, palms, arms, chest, back and legs.
Rashes, lesions, or sores can look different from person to person. They might even look like pimples or blisters, or be mistaken for herpes or syphilis symptoms.
“Monkeypox can include flu-like symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache and fatigue, as well as rashes, lesions or sores.”
Symptoms usually begin 1–2 weeks after exposure. But this can be as short as a few days or as long as 21 days.
Typically, people with monkeypox will get a rash or lesions. Others may have sores 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.
Learn more about monkeypox symptoms in Monkeypox — know the signs and symptoms.
How is monkeypox transmitted?
Monkeypox transmits through close physical contact with someone who has the virus. This includes close contact with:
- Skin rashes, lesions or sores anywhere on the body
- Body fluids (such as pus or blood from lesions)
- Hidden ulcers, lesions or sores in the mouth, throat or inside the ass (rectal area)
- Clothing, bedding, towels or objects from a person who has monkeypox
The virus can also transmit through kissing or by inhaling droplets from coughs or sneezes.
“Vaccinating is the best way to protect yourself and others.”
Until recently, monkeypox wasn’t thought of as a sexually transmitted infection (STI). But evidence from the current global outbreak indicates it is spreading mainly through sexual contact.
We don’t know how long the virus remains in cum (semen). So to protect others, people who have recovered from monkeypox are advised to use condoms for any sexual activity — including oral sex — for 12 weeks after recovery.
A national monkeypox vaccination program is now underway. Vaccinations are recommended for:
- Sexually active guys into other guys who have multiple sexual partners, use hook-up apps or attend sex-on-premises venues, sex parties or beats
- People who have sex with gay or bisexual men (including cis or trans women or non-binary people)
The monkeypox vaccine is free to eligible people with or without Medicare. If you have Medicare, bring your Medicare card to your appointment.
The JYNNEOS® vaccine is safe, effective and free to eligible people. It’s also suitable for people living with HIV and those with weakened immune systems.
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.
“One dose of vaccine is good at protecting you from monkeypox. It takes 2 weeks for the vaccine to provide good protection.”
The vaccine is most effective when you get it before exposure to monkeypox. However, if you are a close contact of someone with monkeypox, vaccinate as soon as possible and within 14 days to reduce the severity of any symptoms.
For more information and to understand your eligibility, check out Get your monkeypox shot — what you need to know about the monkeypox vaccine.
Monkeypox and HIV
People living with HIV who use effective HIV treatment are at no greater risk of monkeypox than HIV-negative people. However, people living with HIV who are not on effective HIV treatment and have weakened immune systems may experience more severe or prolonged monkeypox symptoms.
Although there is limited evidence on monkeypox in HIV-positive people, people living with HIV are advised to follow the same advice as the general population. Contact your HIV treatment specialist or local HIV organisation if you have any concerns.
Is there a monkeypox treatment?
Most people with monkeypox have a mild illness and recover in a few weeks without needing treatment. However, some people may experience mild to severe pain, which may need medical attention.
Antiviral medications are available that may help to treat people with severe illness, such as those with weakened immune systems.
Contact your doctor or sexual health centre for advice.
Reduce your risk: sex & monkeypox
While monkeypox is spreading, be alert for symptoms before, during and after sex. Check yourself for signs before meeting up. If you notice any, contact your sexual health provider.
Make a habit of exchanging contact information with your sexual partners. This will assist with contact tracing.
Until you’re fully vaccinated, you can limit sexual partners or create a sex bubble of regular partners. The fewer intimate partners you have, the better your chances of avoiding monkeypox.
Consider these strategies to help reduce your risk:
- Have virtual sex on the phone or with a webcam
- Jerk off together without touching each other’s skin or body fluids
- Limit skin-to-skin contact as much as possible by leaving clothing on
- Avoid kissing
- Avoid sharing personal items, sex toys or fetish wear
- Practice good hygiene before and after sex
Condoms for anal and oral sex might not protect you from monkeypox. But sex with a condom may help avoid painful lesions around and inside your ass (anal and rectal areas), mouth, and throat.
Reduce your risk: partying at events
Seek information from trusted sources such as local health departments — particularly when travelling interstate and overseas.
Check yourself for symptoms before you leave home. Do not attend events or venues if you feel unwell or have rashes or sores — self-isolate and seek medical attention.
When heading out, consider the type of event you plan to attend and how much skin-to-skin contact is likely to happen. Your risk of monkeypox increases with less clothing and a higher chance of skin-to-skin contact.
Travelling to or returning from overseas?
If you’ve recently been overseas, reduce your sexual partners and monitor for symptoms for 21 days.
If you plan to travel overseas, stay informed and remain aware of developments. Remember to:
- Ensure you are fully vaccinated, ideally 6 weeks before departure
- Exercise caution if you plan to attend sex parties or saunas
- Visit smartraveller.gov.au for up-to-date travel advice
Been exposed to monkeypox or developed symptoms?
If you’re exposed to monkeypox, act fast — vaccinating within 4 days provides your best chance to avoid symptoms. Vaccinating between 4 and 14 days after exposure may help lessen the severity of symptoms.
“If you’re exposed to monkeypox, act fast — vaccinating within 4 days provides your best chance to avoid symptoms.”
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 any visits
- Do not attend a health service in the first instance — call first
- Avoid public transport
- Wear a surgical mask
- Cover any lesions with clothing or dressings
- Avoid sex or being intimate with anyone until examined
- Avoid gatherings, especially if they involve close, skin-to-skin contact with other people
Your doctor or sexual health service can advise you on testing for monkeypox. You must have a rash, lesions or sores to perform a swab test, as there isn’t a blood test for monkeypox.
Find information about monkeypox in your state or territory: