Monkeypox is a viral infection, related to smallpox but less severe and there has been an increasing number of confirmed cases of the virus in the UK. Although monkeypox can affect anyone, the majority of cases are among gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men.
Whilst Monkeypox does not spread easily between people, it can spread through close contact, so is likely to be spread during sex rather than sexual transmission. This could include if your face, lips, hands or fingers (or other skin-to-skin contact during sex) comes into contact with the monkeypox rash or lesions.
It can also be caught from:
- touching or sharing clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the monkeypox rash
- touching monkeypox skin blisters or scabs
- during kissing and oral sex with a person with monkeypox
- the coughs or sneezes of a person with monkeypox
Everyone is being asked to be aware of the monkeypox symptoms, but it’s important gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men, are particularly alert.
If you have new, unexpected or unexplained spots, ulcers or blisters anywhere on your body or any of the other symptoms below, then contact iCaSH by phone – not in person – or call 111 for advice.
- Symptoms of monkeypox include:
- Fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.
- New unexpected or unusual spots, ulcers and blisters. This can develop anywhere on the body, but often on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body including the hands, pubic area and genitals (penis, testicles, vulva, front hole and anus).
Although monkeypox is rare, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of catching the virus. Use of condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is always recommended; whilst monkeypox is not an STI, it can be passed on by direct contact during sex.
As the spots, ulcers and blisters, which are most likely to pass on monkeypox, can appear on any part of the body, condoms will not necessarily prevent transmission of the virus when in direct contact with others, including during sex. UKHSA is advising the use of condoms for 8 weeks after a confirmed diagnosis of monkeypox.
In addition, to help prevent catching the virus:
- Do not touch or share clothing, bedding or towels with people who are unwell and may have monkeypox.
- Do not have close contact with people who are unwell or have symptoms of monkeypox.
- Wash your hands with soap and water regularly or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser
- Be aware that levels of monkeypox infection are higher, but not exclusive to, sexual networks of gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men
- Mass gatherings, such as festivals or Pride events, may also increase the risk of transmission
For more information, go to the following links:
General information on monkeypox from NHS
General guidance on monkeypox from UKHSA
HIV i-Base Monkeypox: Q&A and update
BHIVA rapid statement on monkeypox virus
Platinum Trial Information