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Sex, 'casual contact' and pimples: A guide to separating monkeypox facts from fiction

Grace Toohey, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

How does monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox spreads primarily through close skin-to-skin contact, but it also can be passed through infected bed sheets or towels or through "respiratory secretions," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Intimate contact has to include direct, and usually prolonged, interaction with an infected sore, rash or lesion, but Burstin said such markings may not always be obvious, especially at the beginning of an infection.

"It is possible that someone can have early disease that looks like a pimple or something in the anus you can't see," Burstin said.

There's no evidence that monkeypox can spread through shared airspace, like the coronavirus, experts say.

"I think it's really important for people to recognize monkeypox is not like COVID," Aragón said. "[Monkeypox] is very different in terms of transmission; you really have to have a close, physical contact."


What are the typical symptoms?

Dr. Leo Moore, director of clinical services for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said that people with monkeypox typically develop a flu-like illness, including fever, fatigue, muscle aches and enlarged lymph nodes. Those symptoms are then followed by a rash.

"In many instances with the current outbreak, people are developing a rash with or without swollen lymph nodes that can occur in the genital region or anally as well," Moore said. "We're also seeing the rash occur all over the body, including in the face."

He said people usually develop symptoms a week or two after being exposed, but it can take up to 21 days for evidence of the virus and symptoms can last up to four weeks.


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