Monkeypox (MPX) is a viral disease that can be transmitted by close contact with skin lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials. MPX is zoonotic, which means it can pass between animals and humans.

There has recently been an increase in cases globally, but the risk of catching the virus in New Zealand is very low.

MPX is a notifiable disease in New Zealand, meaning public health need to be informed by a health professional if someone is suspected or confirmed as having the virus.

If you think you may have been exposed to MPX or if you develop symptoms, especially a rash, you should stay home, self-isolate and seek medical advice. You can contact your nearest sexual health clinic, your GP, or Healthline on 0800 611 116.

MPX symptoms can include a rash, spots or blisters. Some people also develop cold and flu symptoms, including a fever or swollen glands.

You’re more likely to have caught MPX if you’ve had close physical or sexual contact with someone who has MPX or MPX symptoms, and either you or they have recently returned from overseas.

If you develop symptoms stay home, self-isolate and seek advice. Many illnesses can cause similar symptoms so it may not be MPX, but it’s important to get help. 

Contact a sexual health clinic for free advice, call your GP, or ring Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116. 

MPX is a viral infection, that is mainly spread through skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the virus.

It is not easily spread from person to person. The ways the virus can be passed on include:

  • Close physical, intimate or sexual contact with someone who has MPX, via skin-to-skin contact
  • Direct contact with the skin rashes, lesions, scabs or bodily fluids of someone with MPX
  • Touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with a MPX rash

While rare, MPX can also be passed on through breathing in droplets exhaled by someone who has the virus. As this requires prolonged contact and for people to be very close together the risk of the virus spreading in this way is very low.

People are normally infectious and can pass on the virus from when they first develop symptoms, up until their lesions or scabs crust, dry and fall off. This will normally span around two to four weeks.

In countries where MPX is endemic (eg, Western Africa) animals sometimes harbour the virus and it can be passed on to humans through contact. When travelling to a country where MPX is endemic it’s important to avoid contact with animals, especially any that are sick or have been found dead.

While anyone can get MPX, the current global outbreak has disproportionately impacted:

  • men who have sex with men (MSM)
  • people who have sex with MSM. This may include people of any gender or sexual identity, whether they are transgender or cisgender, and non-binary people.

There is higher risk for these communities, especially amongst anyone who may have multiple or anonymous sexual partners.

Anyone who will have close physical or sexual contact while overseas, or with people who’ve recently been overseas, is advised to be mindful of MPX symptoms and see their primary care provider or sexual health if they develop symptoms. This is particularly important for MSM, their sexual partners and anyone who has multiple or anonymous sexual partners.

Tests for MPX can be carried out at a medical practice or a sexual health or family planning clinic. You cannot get an MPX test from a COVID-19 Community Testing Centre.

While the test will be free, you may be charged consultation costs or other costs related to processing the test.

The test for MPX involves swabs of any lesions on your skin and/or a throat swab. The tests need to be carried out by a medical professional and cannot be done by a patient themselves.

It normally takes around 48 hours to get a result from the test. If the test shows you have MPX, a public health professional will be in touch shortly after to provide further advice.

While you’re waiting for your result it’s important to stay home, self-isolate and avoid close contact with other people, including those you live with.

MPX is a notifiable disease. This means that health professionals will inform us if they suspect a patient has the virus and requires a test. A laboratory will then confirm the test result with us. 

This allows us to monitor the number of people who have the disease, and means we can give people with MPX advice on isolating, what to expect, and how to reduce the spread of the virus. We will also work with the case and Auckland Sexual Health Services to identify and contact anyone else who may have been at risk of catching the virus. People with MPX are contacted regularly by our team while isolating.

Guidance on what expect if you have MPX is available from the Ministry of Health.

Last updated 6.10.2022

For health advice call Healthline for free anytime on 0800 611 116
MENU menu-arrow
health topics