Monkeypox: What to Do When Sick

If you start experiencing monkeypox symptoms, even if they are mild, talk to your health care provider immediately. A provider can check your symptoms and order testing.

If you do not have a health care provider, call 311 or search the NYC Health Map.

Precautions When Sick

You should take these precautions until all monkeypox sores have healed and a new layer of skin has formed (usually two to four weeks after sores first appeared):

  • Do not have sex or other intimate physical contact with others.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after direct contact with the rash or sores.
  • Avoid contact with pets, and do not let them have direct contact with your sores or your garbage, clothes, bedding or other materials you have touched.

If you do not have a fever, chills or respiratory symptoms, you can be around others at home or outside the home. However, everyone that has monkeypox should take these precautions when around others:

  • Completely cover your rash and sores with clothing (including gloves if you have sores on your hands). Use bandages to cover areas that cannot be covered by clothing.
  • Wear a well-fitting face mask.
  • When you are eating or drinking, sit at least 6 feet away from others.
  • Avoid physical contact with others and crowded spaces. If you must use public transportation, avoid physical contact with others as much as possible.
  • After you use a public or shared bathroom, wipe the toilet seat with a disinfectant wipe.
  • Do not share or let others touch your clothing, towels, bed or bedding.
  • Do not share dishes, food, drinks or utensils.

Even after you are better, use a latex condom during sex for the next eight weeks. This will help protect your partners in case the virus can be transmitted by semen (experts are still studying whether that is possible).

If you have monkeypox symptoms, you may be required to stay out of work until your sores have healed. Talk to your employer.

Isolation

You should isolate at home and avoid all contact with others if your symptoms include fever, chills or respiratory symptoms (such as cough, sneezing, runny nose and sore throat), until these symptoms go away without taking any fever-reducing or other medicine. Avoid contact with family members and having nonessential visitors in your home. If you cannot stay in a separate room from others at home, or if you must leave home for essential needs, take the precautions described above.

You do not need to isolate if you do not have a fever, chills or respiratory symptoms and you follow the precautions above.

What To Do if You Have Monkeypox (PDF)

How to Clean and Do Laundry

To safely clean and do your laundry while you have monkeypox:

  • Wear disposable gloves if you touch your rash or sores. Throw them out and wash your hands after use.
  • If you touch any clothing, linens or surface that may have had contact with a rash or sores or fluid from the sores, wash or sanitize your hands.
  • If you are sharing a bathroom, clean and disinfect surfaces after use, especially if your rash or sores are exposed.
  • Use standard household cleaners and disinfectants to clean and disinfect surfaces.
  • Wash dirty dishes and utensils with warm water and soap or in a dishwasher.
  • Place gauze, bandages and other medical waste in a tight waterproof plastic bag (double bagged, if possible) and throw out with your regular trash.
  • Place used linens, towels and clothes in a separate laundry bag or garbage bag.

How to Safely Wash Your Laundry if You Have Monkeypox (PDF)
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Treatment

There is no specific treatment approved for monkeypox. Most people get better on their own without treatment. However, antivirals for smallpox may help people who have severe symptoms or are at high risk for severe illness. Your provider will help you find out if you are eligible for antiviral treatment. They may be able to prescribe mouthwash, gels and other medicines to help with pain, swelling and itchiness.

Ask your provider or pharmacist for assistance choosing over-the-counter medicines. Read and closely follow any instructions on the medicine box and package insert, including about dose, frequency of use, who should not take or use the medicine, and allergies.

Here are some more ways to help you reduce symptoms:

  • Stay hydrated, especially if you have diarrhea.
  • Keep rash and sores clean and dry when not showering or bathing to prevent the sores from becoming infected.
  • Over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen can help reduce pain, swelling and fever.
  • For temporary itch relief, try antihistamines, calamine lotion, petroleum jelly and cooling lotions. A warm oatmeal bath can also help with itching and pain.
  • For mouth sores:
    • Rinse your mouth with clean salt water or a mouthwash with no alcohol at least four times a day.
    • Suck on ice chips or ice pops and drink water.
    • Consider using patches (such as DenKep Canker Cover) that cover the sores and benzocaine gels to reduce mouth pain, especially to help you eat and drink.
  • If you have sores on your genitals or rectum:
    • Take warm sitz baths lasting at least 10 minutes several times a day.
    • Dibucaine ointment, often used for hemorrhoids, or lidocaine gel may also provide temporary relief. These are for external use only.
    • Take docusate (such as Colace), a stool softener, to reduce pain when you go to the bathroom.

Severe Illness

The following may increase your risk for severe illness if you are infected with monkeypox: HIV; other conditions that weaken your immune system; and a history of atopic dermatitis or eczema. If you have one of these conditions and monkeypox symptoms, it is especially important to see a provider right away.

Severe illness due to monkeypox may include a fever, rapid increase in the number of sores, confusion, stiff neck, difficulty breathing, seizure, diarrhea and vomiting. Contact your provider if your symptoms get worse, including increases in pain, redness or swelling; if you have cloudy or milky fluid at the site of the sores; or if your pain interferes with eating, sitting or going to the bathroom.

If you do not have a provider, call 311 or search the NYC Health Map. If it is an emergency, call 911 or go to the hospital.


Additional Resources