Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease caused by the monkeypox virus. It belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus family which includes the variola virus (the virus that causes smallpox).

Monkeypox is endemic in Central and West Africa. Cases occurring outside of these regions are usually associated with international travel.

Signs and Symptoms: 

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious illness and symptoms usually include fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes. The rash often begins on the face and extremities.

The incubation period (time from contact of the virus to the onset of the first symptoms) is usually 6 to 13 days but can range from 5 to 21 days.

Symptoms of the infection can be divided into two periods:

  • The initial symptoms may be experienced for 0 to 5 days:
    • fever
    • headache
    • back pain and muscle aches
    • lack of energy
    • swelling of the lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy).

  • A distinctive rash usually begins within 1 to 3 days of appearance of fever. The rash tends to be more concentrated on the face, arms, and legs rather than on the trunk. The rash can also occur in and around the mouth, genitals and eyes.

The rash goes through different stages. It usually starts flat, then becomes raised and fills with fluid, then pus. The rash eventually crusts into a scab and then falls off.

The number of lesions varies from a few to several thousand.


Treatment for monkeypox is mainly supportive. The illness is usually mild, and recovery usually takes a few weeks. Rarely, severe cases can occur.

An infectious diseases specialist should be consulted if additional therapies are required.


Monkeypox is spread to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material contaminated with the virus.

Person-to-person transmission of monkeypox can occur through:

  • close contact with skin lesions/rash
  • body fluids, including respiratory droplets
  • contaminated materials such as bedding.

Transmission via respiratory droplets is less common and usually requires prolonged face-to-face contact.

Transmission may occur between sexual partners, through intimate contact during sex, with contact with the infectious skin rash being the likely mode of transmission.


Staying vigilant with hygiene measures including washing hands with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitiser is important.

People travelling to endemic countries should avoid contact with sick or dead animals that could harbour monkeypox virus (rodents, marsupials, primates) and should refrain from eating or handling wild game (bush meat).

Monitor for symptoms if you have had contact with a case of monkeypox.

If you develop symptoms, isolate and seek medical attention, making sure to wear a mask and cover your lesions or blisters if you have any.

Help and assistance: 

Get qualified health advice 24/7 for the cost of a local call on 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84).

If you are in an emergency situation, call 000 immediately.

For further assistance, please contact your local doctor, community health centre or nearest public health unit.