The university is also closely monitoring the local, regional and national public health situations regarding the global outbreak of mpox (formerly called monkeypox). The campus is committed to informing the UMass community about health issues that may affect them. We recognize that there is risk for stigma or discrimination when communicating about a new disease outbreak. We all have a responsibility to reject any stigmatizing words or actions related to mpox virus and instead, share accurate information so that people can make the best decisions for their health and the health of our community.
Mpox is not a sexually transmitted disease as it can be transmitted by any direct physical contact between someone’s rash, scabs, bodily fluids and another person. This contact can include sexual activity and also any touching of the lesions/rash or even touching of clothing or bedding that an infected person used. We have published University guidance on mpox that focuses on topics such as what is mpox, how it can spread, what are the symptoms, what to do if individuals experience symptoms and how individuals can reduce their risk and prevent spread.
Furthermore, we want to encourage the entire UMass community to familiarize themselves with the basic facts about mpox and to take steps to prevent its spread.
For more information, please visit the Massachusetts Department of Public Health mpox website or the CDC mpox website.
What is mpox?
Mpox is a rare disease caused by infection with the mpox virus. Mpox virus is part of the same family of viruses that causes smallpox. Mpox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and mpox is rarely fatal. It can cause flu-like symptoms and a rash, sometimes the rash can be quite painful.
Mpox is not a sexually transmitted disease as it can be transmitted by any direct physical contact between someone’s rash, scabs, bodily fluids and another person, this can include sexual activity but also includes any touching of the lesions/rash between people or even touching clothing or bedding that an infected person used.
In this current outbreak many of the cases to date are related to individuals who contracted it due to close physical contact during sexual activity.
How is mpox spread?
- Mpox is spread through:
- direct contact with an infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
- respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
- touching objects, fabrics (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the rash or body fluids of someone with mpox
- being scratched or bitten by an infected animal
- Mpox can be acquired by all people, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation
- Mpox causes a rash
- Mpox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. This can take several weeks.
Signs and Symptoms – Mpox often starts with flulike symptoms or sometimes with a rash only. The rash can have many lesions scattered over the body but sometimes a person might only have a few lesions. Symptoms of mpox can include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.
- The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.
What to do if you think you have mpox?
Seek medical care and avoid close physical contact and gatherings, including sex with others until you know for sure. Wear a mask and cover your rash when you need to go out for medical appointments. Talk to your partners about any recent illnesses or rashes they might have.
If you have a rash and think you might be at risk for mpox due to an exposure or high-risk activities call University Health Services (UHS) at (413)577-5101 for an appointment with a provider, call a triage nurse at (423)577-5229 or you can walk-in. Make sure to wear a mask and to cover any lesions you have with clothing and let staff know as soon as possible why you are there.
UHS can conduct mpox testing, results may take a few days, if your provider is concerned you have mpox you will need to isolate until you get results.
What to do if you test positive for mpox?
People with mpox should follow these recommendations until cleared by state or local public health officials:
- Stay home except to receive medical care
- Avoid close contact with others
- Friends, family, or others without an essential need to be in the home should not visit
- Cover all your lesions and wear a mask when in close contact with others
- Routinely clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and items, such as counters or light switches, using an EPA-registered disinfectant (such as List Q) in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
- Do not engage in sexual activity that involves direct physical contact. Review the CDC's guidance on mpox and safer sex.
- Do not share clothing, bedding, towels, utensils, etc
- Avoid rash touching upholstered surfaces on furniture
- Do your own laundry (normal washing practices are sufficient)
- Avoid close contact with any pets (to the extent possible)
- Try to avoid public transportation
- Avoid use of contact lenses to prevent inadvertent infection of the eye
- Avoid shaving rash-covered areas of the body as this can lead to spread of the virus
How can you reduce your risk and prevent spread?
- Avoid close contact (including sexual contact) with people who are sick or have a rash and their household/contaminated items.
- Decrease the number of sex and intimate contact partners.
- Avoid gatherings where people wear minimal clothing and have direct, intimate, skin-to-skin contact.
- Be mindful of activities (e.g., kissing, sharing drinks and eating utensils) that might increase the risk for spreading mpox whenever you gather with others.
Is there a mpox vaccine?
When properly administered before or after a recent exposure, vaccines can be effective tools at protecting people against mpox illness and can make it less severe after exposure.
Supplies of the mpox vaccine are currently limited, both locally and nationally. Currently vaccine is limited in Massachusetts and is prioritized for those exposed or at most risk. Once supply increases, the University will strive to obtain vaccine to administer as appropriate according to CDC guidance.