What is Monkeypox (MPX)?
Monkeypox (often shortened to MPX or MPV) is a rare viral illness. Since May 2022, cases of MPX have been identified in the U.S., where cases don't normally occur.
While monkeypox is mostly affecting gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men (MSM), it is important to know that monkeypox is not only in MSM or LGBTQ communities. People of any gender identity and sexual orientation can get MPX.
MPX can be spread by direct, personal contact with the lesions of a person who has MPX, such as through hugging, massage, kissing or sex, or by touching fabrics and objects that were used by a person with monkeypox and have not been disinfected, such as bedding, towels, fetish gear, and sex toys. MPX may be able to spread through prolonged face-to-face contact with a person who has MPX.
How can I get the MPX vaccine?
In the Twin Cities, Red Door Clinic is the easiest place for most people to get vaccinated. Red Door Clinic has same-day appointments available. Eligibility requirements have changed -- if you were told you were not eligible before, you may be eligible now. You are eligible for the vaccine if you:
- have been exposed to MPX
- engage in sex work, or exchange sex for food, money, substances, shelter, etc.
- are living with HIV
- Identify as a gay or bisexual man
- Are a man who has sex with men
- Are transgender, (including trans men, trans women, and nonbinary or gender-nonconforming people)
- Are a sexual partner of people with the above risks.
- Anticipate experiencing the above risks.
- Are otherwise at high risk
If you meet the criteria, you can also contact your regular healthcare provider and ask to be vaccinated. Vaccine doses are available in Minnesota at major health systems, community clinics, sexual health clinics, and tribal health clinics. There may be pop-up vaccine clinics at community organizations. Family Tree Clinic does not have capacity to provide vaccinations at this time.
What can I do to reduce my risk of MPX?
Getting vaccinated is a great way to reduce your risk of getting MPX. You can find out more details about the two vaccines that are available here. Your protection will be highest two weeks after your second dose of the vaccine. In the meantime, you have options for reducing your risk. The current outbreak of MPX is mostly spreading through sex, and spaces like backrooms, bathhouses and sex parties may be particularly high risk. There are ways to continue to be sexual while reducing your chances of exposure.
- You may want to temporarily reduce your number of sexual partners, have conversations with potential partners about MPX and exchange contact information in case either one of you gets sick. You can ask potential partners if they’ve gotten the vaccine, if they have any new symptoms of MPX, and about their recent sexual history. Communicating with partners before sex can make you feel more confident and connected.
- Consider forming a “sex pod” with people who moniter for symptoms after each encounter and limit sex to other members of the pod.
- You can use condoms, which may protect your anus (butthole), mouth, penis, or vagina from exposure to MPX. However, condoms alone may not prevent all exposures since the rash can occur on other parts of the body.
- You can wear gloves (latex, polyurethane, or nitrile) which might also reduce the possibility of exposure if inserting fingers or hands into the vagina or the anus. The gloves must cover all exposed skin and be removed carefully to avoid touching the outer surface.
- You can have sex while avoiding kissing or exchanging spit, or keeping face-to-face contact to a minimum.
- Try masturbating together at a distance.
- Have virtual or phone sex.
- Consider having sex with your clothes on or covering areas where rash is present, reducing as much skin-to-skin contact as possible. Leather or latex gear also provides a barrier to skin-to-skin contact; just be sure to change or clean clothes/gear between partners.
- More ideas and information can be found here
What should I do if I think I’ve been exposed?
If you were contacted by a person who has gotten a positive test result or by a representative of the health department, getting vaccinated as soon as possible gives you the best chance to prevent the disease or make it less severe. Keep an eye out for symptoms, but if you don’t have any symptoms, you can go about your life as usual.
What should I do if I think I might have MPX?
Symptoms of MPX may include a new rash (lesions) that looks like pimples or blisters, which may be painful or itchy. Some people have flu-like symptoms before or after the rash. If you have one or more lesions, a healthcare provider can test you for MPX by swabbing the lesion. Family Tree Clinic can test for MPX, as can most clinics. (Contact us for an appointment here) It may be a good idea to avoid contact and sex with other people while you wait to get results. Try to avoid touching the rash which could spread it to other parts of the body and may delay healing.
What should I do if I test positive for MPX?
If you test positive for MPX or a provider tells you that the lesions they see are probably MPX, you can help prevent the spread to others by staying away from other people and pets until your rash has healed and a new layer of skin has formed. If you share a home with others, you can wear gloves and a mask, and disinfect surfaces to reduce their risk. Read more details about home hygiene here.
An important way that you can care for your community is by notifying your close contacts that they might have been exposed. The CDC has a helpful guide for how to notify your contacts here.
There is no cure for MPX, but there is an antiviral medication called TPOXX that may be prescribed. Some people may or may not have access to this treatment depending upon their healthcare provider’s opinion about the severity of their illness. To find more information about accessing TPOXX, click here.
MPX symptoms can be very painful and uncomfortable for some people. There are ways to manage your symptoms and practice self care at home while you are recovering from MPX. The CDC has this list of ideas for how people can manage symptoms here, and locally in Minneapolis, The Red Door Clinic have put together care packs for patients recovering from MPX. Call their phone line at 612-543-5555 to speak to a nurse who can help you with your self care. The MPLS MPX Taskforce can connect you to continued support throughout your recovery.
Getting support is very important! While you’re isolating at home, consider sharing a meal train with people who can help cheer you up and support you with meals and groceries. There is also a free online weekly support group for people with MPX run by therapists, find more information here.