Monkeypox is a rare infection caused by a virus. Although it causes a rash and can be spread through close personal contact, it’s not an STI.

It’s usually a mild infection that gets better within a few weeks. You might need to self-isolate if you have the infection, to stop it from spreading to other people.

In May 2022, more people are testing positive for monkeypox than usual. And a number of these cases are men who have sex with men. It’s thought that in these cases, the virus is being spread during sexual contact. This is unusual for the monkeypox virus.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is looking into these new cases. They recommend that everyone stays alert to signs of infection, particularly men who have sex with men.

Symptoms of monkeypox

The symptoms include:

  • a high temperature

  • swollen lymph nodes - new lumps that appear on your neck, groin or under your arms

  • a spotty rash that’s similar to a chickenpox rash

If you have any of these signs, contact your GP or local sexual health clinic. Make sure to contact your surgery or clinic before you visit. They will be able to help you with testing and treatment, sensitively and privately.

The STI tests that we offer do not work for diagnosing monkeypox. 

How is monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox does not easily spread between people. But it can be passed on through close contact with a person who has the infection. This means:

  • touching them, in particular, touching their rash

  • touching their clothes, bedding or towels

  • being near their coughs and sneezes

If you are worried that you might have been in contact with the monkeypox virus, contact your doctors or your local sexual health clinic.

Find out more


Reviewed by Dr Paula Baraitser. Medical Director

Last updated at: 25 May 2022

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