Here are some of the most commonly asked questions we get about mpox.
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions we get about mpox.
Are there any mpox cases currently in Aotearoa New Zealand?
Should I be concerned about mpox?
Mpox is an ongoing health risk that our communities must be aware of. While mpox is a self-limiting illness (i.e., can resolve on its own) and most people recover in a few weeks, some symptoms can be very uncomfortable, and it currently requires an isolation period to prevent transmission.
Symptoms can be more severe in immunocompromised people.
A reminder: most people living with HIV and receiving treatment in Aotearoa are not considered immunocompromised.
Are people living with HIV at more risk from mpox?
People living with HIV are overrepresented in the number of mpox cases, but the reasons for this are not certain. It appears that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment are typically experiencing infection in a very similar way to their HIV-negative counterparts, which means it is most often mild and self-limiting. However, those who are not on treatment or have low CD4 cell counts may be more vulnerable to more severe mpox disease.
The JYNNEOS vaccine is safe for people living with HIV. It has been tested among people living with HIV with CD4 counts >100. It can be used in people with lower CD4 counts, but we are not yet sure if it will be as effective.
What can I do to protect myself?
Right now, the best thing you can do is arrange an mpox consultation with your GP or local sexual health clinic, who will work with you to determine if a vaccine is appropriate.
Otherwise, keep an eye out for symptoms. Look out for any skin changes, new lesions/spots/scabs or any new pain and discomfort in the genital, anal or rectal areas (around your butt and butthole).
Other symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, muscle ache, headache and flu like symptoms (keep in mind that these do not appear in all mpox cases and can often be symptoms of other illnesses).
If you are concerned, stay home and get in touch with your local sexual health clinic or GP and follow their instructions.
Being alert and getting tested if you experience symptoms will be the easiest way to know what you might be dealing with.
Is there a vaccine for mpox?
Globally, there are vaccines that can be used to prevent mpox. The JYNNEOS vaccine has been used internationally and shows good safety and efficacy. Mpox vaccines can be used to prevent mpox before you have been exposed or after you have been exposed to prevent mpox from developing.
The supply of the mpox vaccine has touched down in Aotearoa, and is available via select GPs and sexual health clinics to:
The vaccine itself is free, however consultation fees may apply.
Once you have received a vaccine, you will be eligible for a second dose after 4 weeks.
Will I have to give ID if I get vaccinated?
We expect you should be able to access the vaccine in a way that offers you as much privacy as possible. Our understanding is that this vaccine does get documented on your medical record. As it is a two-dose schedule that's spaced apart, documentation in this way will help you and your provider make sure this is done correctly.
What makes gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men more at risk?
Mpox is primarily transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and direct contact with skin rashes, lesions or scabs, and may be transmitted through bodily fluids. In this global outbreak, the most common and efficient way mpox is spreading is through sexual contact.
Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men make up a small portion of the population. So, when we’re meeting another person for sex, the pool of people we are choosing from is much smaller. That makes us quite closely connected sexually, which can allow mpox to spread more quickly among us.
Will it be obvious if I get mpox?
Not necessarily. Symptoms can start with just some spots/lesions (usually around the face, arms or legs). In this global outbreak, we are seeing more rashes/lesions on the mouth, genitals and anus where they may not be easily spotted by the individual. Because of this, it’s important that if you are at risk and you notice any new symptoms, that you get them checked out early. For example, there have been reports of people experiencing proctitis, rectal pain discharge, or constipation) as the only symptom of mpox, so make sure to see your doctor if you have pain in or around your anus (butt) and genitals.
Is mpox contagious?
Yes, mpox is contagious if you have close or skin to skin contact with an infected person. But by following public health advice, you can avoid passing it on to other people. In the current outbreak, most infections are thought to have occurred through sexual contact. Mpox is not spread the same as illnesses like COVID-19. Mpox can be passed on through breathing in droplets exhaled by someone who has the virus, but this is very rare.
What might the risk be to my whānau if I get mpox?
Mpox can spread to those you live with as direct contact is also a mode of mpox transmission, but in general the risk of this happening is low.
If you want to reduce the risk to your friends and whānau make sure to do the following:
If any of your whānau are identified as close contacts, they should also follow instructions from Public Health officials. They will not be required to isolate unless they start showing symptoms.
You will also be provided with specific guidance and advice from Public Health about how to keep others safe.
Are we fear-mongering?
Our communities have a right to know about issues that could affect our health and wellbeing.
Talking about a global public health issue that has had cases within New Zealand is not what we would call fear mongering. We are raising awareness, encouraging government to protect those most at risk, and giving people information they need to be safe and make informed choices about their own health. Prevention is the best medicine – the more people who know what to look out for, what to do and where to get help, the less likely it is we’ll see a larger outbreak disrupting people’s lives and the health system here.
Is mpox an STI?
This is complicated. It is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), BUT, in this global outbreak it is primarily spreading through sexual contact (the majority of cases have been associated with sexual contacts!). This is because of the role that close skin to skin contact has in transmission.
Why should I use a condom if it won’t stop me getting mpox?
Using condoms is important as we are seeing that the first mpox lesions may often appear where the person has had contact with infected lesions or skin to skin contact. If this is while having oral sex, you could get lesions in your mouth. If this is after anal sex, you can develop lesions on the penis, scrotum or in the anus and rectum (inside your butt or around your butthole – ouch!), which are more sensitive than other areas. This can be very painful or can cause complications.
Essentially, while unlikely to eliminate the risk of mpox transmission, using condoms can prevent you getting mpox where it might be more painful or sensitive.
Plus, (and this applies to everyone, even if you are using PrEP or relying on U=U as HIV prevention), condoms are effective at reducing the risk of other sexually transmitted infections which can appear similar to monkeypox and can also be associated with unpleasant symptoms.
Do I have to tell anyone if I get monkeypox?
Some people will need to know so that they can protect themselves or support you, but you won’t have to tell anyone who doesn’t need to know:
Close Contacts (including sexual partners)
Yes, people who have had close contact with you while you have been infectious do need to know. Public Health will work with you to inform your contacts. Unless you tell them yourself, public health will not tell your contacts that you have mpox, just that they have been in contact with someone who has mpox.
The people you live with may need to know so that you can protect each other. You don’t need to tell anyone else in your whānau or anyone else you don’t want to know. Having mpox is nothing to be ashamed of, so if you need any help, consider reaching out to those around you for support.
Public Health will work with you to do this. Your healthcare provider can provide you with a medical certificate to give to your employer as evidence that you are required to isolate and cannot attend your place of work. This certificate will not include clarification of an mpox diagnosis unless you have asked for it to. Instead, it will just give a general explanation that you cannot attend work due to medical reasons. Your employer would only be told of your mpox diagnosis if Public Health needed to manage potential exposure to mpox in your workplace, but this is unlikely.
Do I have to isolate if I get mpox?
Yes. You must isolate at minimum for 7 days from when the lesions first appeared. After this, your isolation requirements will be reviewed by Public Health. Your time to isolate depends on the stage of healing for your lesions, where they’re located, and how you’re feeling. This is likely to be a two-to-four-week timeframe depending on when you tested positive. Public Health will assist with ensuring you are safe to leave isolation as soon as possible.
How can I avoid getting mpox?
For Q&A's related to Cases and Close Contacts visit this page.