Monkeypox (mpox)

Monkeypox, or mpox*, is a virus that—in the context of recent outbreaks—is primarily impacting GBT2Q men, as well as trans and non-binary people. The outcomes can sometimes be severe. Although anyone can contract the virus, it’s a fact that the vast majority of cases in recent outbreaks are among members of our community.

Mpox is transmitted through close contact and clothing or bedding shared with someone who has the virus. Symptoms include fever, muscle pains, and a rash that develops into blisters.

Below you will find some helpful information about mpox: what we know, and how you can care for yourself, and each other.

*We are starting to use the term mpox (instead of monkeypox) in an effort to reduce stigma and racism. Naming viruses after locations they were identified can associate viral diseases with particular nations, cultures, and people. The term monkeypox associates mpox with the African continent, where the virus has been found in monkeys and other wildlife. However, this association is not helpful in understanding current global outbreaks.

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Getting vaccinated

Getting vaccinated is a highly effective way to reduce the chances of mpox infection, and to prevent serious illness. Vaccines against mpox are now available for GBT2Q men in several provinces, including Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario (booking information varies by region), and Quebec. Follow the links above, or contact your local public health agency to find vaccine clinics in your area. The vaccine teaches your immune system to fight mpox, and it takes about 2 weeks for the vaccine to be fully effective.

Many people don’t know if they’ve been vaccinated against mpox. If you are under 50, you did not receive the vaccine as part of Canada’s smallpox/mpox vaccination program. Vaccines effective against smallpox and mpox were previously offered to everyone in Canada, but this program ended in 1972.

What if I have a hard time with needles? The vaccine currently available in Canada (Imvamune) is given differently than many other vaccines. Because it is given in the fatty layer beneath the skin, instead of into muscle, many people find it less painful than other vaccines.


If you suspect that you might have mpox, review the symptoms, which can include fever, muscle pains, and a rash that develops into blisters. If you have symptoms consistent with mpox, contact your health care provider or local public health authority to get tested. Limit contact with others. While mpox usually resolves on its own eventually, getting tested will confirm whether you need to isolate, and provide important information to the health care system on the spread of the virus.

Mpox symptoms can show up between 5-21 days after exposure to the virus, but most often show up between 6 and 13 days after exposure.


If you have mpox, you aren’t alone. Infectious diseases are a part of life, but unfortunately they can also lead to feelings of shame and marginalization. As the virus continues to impact GBT2Q communities, there is a growing stigma relating to mpox, and those who are getting it. Visit igotmpox.com to hear first-hand advice from someone who got mpox, and support in navigating stigma related to mpox.

Vaccination—If you have already been exposed to mpox, getting vaccinated can still help your immune system fight the virus. Contact your health care provider or local public health authority to ask about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for mpox. Getting the vaccine is recommended as soon as possible after exposure to mpox, but can be provided up to two weeks after exposure.

Isolation—Recovering from mpox requires self-isolation, which can last three weeks or longer. Wherever possible, follow isolation guidance from your public health authority. The pocks (sores or blisters), continue to be infectious until the scab falls off and there is new skin underneath.

For many, this period of isolation may be long and difficult. If you are isolating, consider reaching out to your support network. If you aren’t in isolation but know someone who is, consider reaching out to them and offering to deliver supplies if you are able.

Wound care—effective wound care can help in managing pain and discomfort from mpox, but many people with mpox aren’t given proper guidance from the health care system. Learn more about wound care for mpox at igotmpox.com.

Seeking medical treatment—Mpox usually resolves on its own within three to four weeks. However, for many, mpox causes significant pain and discomfort, and it may be important to receive medical attention during this time. Many people experience fever/chills before they notice any rash.

If you have pocks in/near your eyes, in your throat (affecting your ability to breathe) or rectum (with intense pain), you should seek medical attention to prevent disability.

In addition to getting tested for mpox, it is important to seek medical care if there are signs of a secondary bacterial infection. It’s possible for pocks (sores or blisters) caused by mpox anywhere on your body to get infected. Avoid scratching the area to reduce the chance of infection. Some signs that your pocks are infected include extra redness in the surrounding area, swelling, and increasing or intense pain, white discharge, and having a fever.


For people living with HIV, current guidance doesn’t indicate additional measures necessary to prevent mpox infection. However, all people who are immunocompromised—including those living with HIV who are not receiving regular antiretroviral treatment or have a CD4 below 200—may have a higher likelihood of severe illness if they are exposed to the mpox virus. The vaccine currently offered in Canada (Imvamune) is shown to be safe for people living with HIV.


Research is ongoing to understand trends in recent mpox transmission. While it’s clear mpox is spreading within GBT2Q men’s social and sexual networks, the reason GBT2Q people are most impacted is less clear.

One explanation is that GBT2Q people tend to have different sexual patterns than other groups. GBT2Q people often have a higher number of sexual partners, for example, and non-monogamous relationships are more common. This may mean the mpox virus can spread more easily in a “chain” from person to person. While many non-GBT2Q people also have a high number of sexual partners, different patterns of sex and intimacy in the population could mean the virus doesn’t spread efficiently enough to survive. This aligns with one mpox modeling study from the UK, which used data about sexual patterns to predict mpox transmission.

Currently, there isn’t clear evidence to suggest mpox transmission is linked to particular behaviours, like anal sex. The mpox virus has been found in semen, but is unclear whether this is a significant contributor to transmission. As mpox can be passed on from skin-to-skin, and other intimate contact, condoms aren’t reliable in stopping sexual transmission of mpox.


 


A community-informed response:

  • In response to rising mpox cases in Canada, CBRC wrote a letter to Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos calling for greater support for people with mpox. This letter, co-signed by 71 organizations called for immediate emergency financial and housing supports and wrap-around services for people with confirmed or suspected mpox infection. Read the letter here.
  • More recently, CBRC’s Advancement and Evaluation Director, Len Tooley, shared his first hand experience with mpox via his website, igotmpox.com. This resource provides information—including tips on wound care and isolation—that is often lacking when people are diagnosed with mpox. Visit igotmpox.com or read Len’s blog post on mpox here.
  • As mpox cases continue to rise in Canada, we are launching a series of collaborative projects with community-based organizations to help share information around prevention, testing, and support for people with mpox. If your organization is interested in collaborating to share information on mpox, contact us using this form.
  • As part of the Sex Now Survey that we have been conducting at Pride festivals this summer, we asked GBT2Q people their opinions on mpox. We found that GBT2Q people wanted increased vaccine access and improved communication about mpox. We also found that many people were unsure if they had received a vaccine against mpox. View the findings here.
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Monkeypox (mpox)
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