Monkeypox: Reduce Your Risk
Safer Physical and Sexual Contact
Published September 2022
Monkeypox is not classified as a sexually transmitted disease (STD), such as gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis. However, sexual interactions raise the risk of contact with bodily fluids or monkeypox sores, rashes or scabs, which means they raise your risk of getting the virus.
"Monkeypox spreads most often through close and intimate contact," explains Karen M. Krueger, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Northwestern Medicine. The virus can also be picked up from surfaces, including bed sheets, clothes and sex toys.
One of the most important and effective tools to prevent the spread of monkeypox is vaccination. However, not everyone can or should get the vaccine. And even if you are vaccinated, you should still take precautions to avoid exposure to the virus.
Here are things everyone can do to reduce their risk:
- Exchange contact information with your sexual partners. Having someone's contact information can make it easier to follow up about sexual health.
- Before you engage in sexual activity, self-screen for monkeypox symptoms and talk to your partner(s) about potential symptoms they may have. If anyone has an unexplained or new rash, do not have sex. Visit a clinician for an exam and diagnosis.
- Wash your hands, fabrics (such as bedding and towels) and sex toys after sex. Good sexual hygiene and infection prevention habits are always important.
- If you get a vaccine for monkeypox, pause your regular sexual activity until two weeks after you receive your second dose. In the meantime, consider options for sexual activity that do not involve physical contact with others, such as masturbation or virtual sex.
While these practices can help reduce your risk of getting infected, keep in mind that monkeypox can also spread through air droplets during extended face-to-face contact. If you suspect that you or someone you are in close contact with is infected with monkeypox, wear a mask.