Monkeypox (now known as mpox) spreads through close contact. You should see a doctor if you think you have it.


Mpox often begins as flu-like symptoms. It also appears as a distinctive rash or sores or spots that can look like pimples or blisters on the skin anywhere on the body, especially in the genital area. Spots can also be inside the rectum or butt, on fingers, or in the mouth or eyes.

Generally, the spots start as red, flat spots, and then become bumps. Those bumps then become filled with fluid which turns to pus. The pus bump then breaks and crusts over into a scab. The scabs may be itchy.

Some people never get a rash. They may have a fever, or swollen glands or muscle aches. Some people get a rash and other symptoms together. Or one after the other.  And for some people, symptoms start with a fever and only two or three spots.   

Some people have also reported pain or discomfort inside their rectum. 

Images of Mpox

Mpox can look different in different stages. Find out more about mpox symptoms on the CDC website.

images of mpox rash
“Mpox rash” by NHS England High Consequence Infectious Diseases Network

How it Spreads

Mpox spreads through prolonged skin to skin contact. Contact includes:

  • sex
  • kissing
  • breathing at very close range
  • sharing bedding and clothing

Less commonly, it may spread through:

  • Needles or other sharp objects that have come in contact with a skin lesion of someone with mpox.

If you have sex or close physical contact with many people you have a higher chance of getting mpox.

Mpox can be serious, though most cases resolve on their own. You should see a doctor right away if you think you have been exposed. 

Staying Safe

If you think you might be at risk you can:

  • Cover exposed skin in crowds
  • Don’t share bedding or clothing
  • Talk to anyone you've had sex or close contact with about their health
  • Stay aware if traveling

If you have symptoms:

  • Cover the area of the rash with clean, dry, loose-fitting clothing
  • Wear a well-fitted mask
  • Avoid skin-to-skin, or close contact with others
  • Talk to a healthcare provider as soon as possible
  • Stay away from other people
  • Let sex partners know about any symptoms you have

Notice of Exposure

If you got a notice that you might have been exposed, think about your contact with other people at the event.

If you had close, physical contact with others at an event (like kissing or sex) you are at high risk of direct exposure. You should get a Mpox vaccine within 14 days to prevent an infection (the sooner the better!).   

If you were at the event and did not have close, physical contact with others, you may not need a vaccine. Look for symptoms of mpox and talk to your healthcare provider.


Testing is available for people who have a rash that looks like a mpox rash. Healthcare providers do the testing. If you have a rash or spots and think you might have mpox, it will be important to see a healthcare provider. The provider will swab the spots and send the swab to a lab for testing. 

While you are waiting for your test results: 

  • Stay home and away from other people 

  • Avoid public transportation. If you must leave home, limit physical contact with anyone, wear a well-fitting mask, and cover all lesions, including on your hands.  You may use soft bandages for lesions that are not covered by clothes or gloves. 

  • Get in touch with people you've had sex or close contact with and ask them to get tested if they develop a rash or spots. Any close contacts should also get vaccinated if they have not yet been vaccinated. 

If you do not have a preferred healthcare provider, or can’t get an appointment, you can go to these locations in SF for mpox testing and treatment: 

  • SF City Clinic at 7th Street San Francisco (628-217-6600) 

  • San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Clinic at Strut located at 470 Castro Street (415-581-1600) 


Most people get well from Mpox without needing any medicines or other treatment.  

Tecovirimat, or TPOXX, is a drug approved by the FDA to treat smallpox. Smallpox and mpox are similar, so TPOXX may be used to treatment mpox.  

TPOXX is an investigational drug for people who have severe mpox or are at risk of severe mpox. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider if you think you might need TPOXX.  You can learn more about when TPOXX is needed here and which health systems have TPOXX here.

If you do not have a preferred healthcare provider, or can’t get an appointment, you can go to these locations in SF for mpox testing and treatment: 

  • Strut located at 470 Castro Street (415-581-1600) 

Frequently Asked Questions

Outreach toolkit

Last updated May 15, 2023