How It Spreads

Mpox spreads in a few ways.

Close or Intimate Contact

Mpox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including:

  • Direct contact with mpox rash and scabs from a person with mpox, as well as contact with their saliva, upper respiratory secretions (snot, mucus), and areas around the anus, rectum, or vagina

This direct contact can happen during intimate contact, including:

  • Oral, anal, or vaginal sex, or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus of a person with mpox
  • Hugging, massage, and kissing
  • Prolonged face-to-face contact

The risk is considered low for getting mpox by touching objects, fabrics, and surfaces that have been used by someone with mpox and not disinfected, such as clothing, bedding, towels, fetish gear, or sex toys.

A person with mpox can spread it to others from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. As of February 2023, new data show that some people can spread mpox to others from one to four days before their symptoms appear. It’s not clear how many people this has affected during the current outbreak. There is currently no evidence showing that people who never develop symptoms have spread the virus to someone else. CDC will continue to monitor the latest information about how mpox spreads.

Is Mpox a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)?

In the current mpox outbreak, the virus is spreading primarily through sexual contact; however, infections have occurred through other exposures, including non-sexual contact with infectious lesions and from contaminated instruments in clinic settings.

Mpox and Pregnancy

Mpox virus can be spread to the fetus during pregnancy or to the newborn by close contact during and after birth.

Infected Animals

Anyone in close personal contact with a person or animal with mpox can become infected and should take steps to protect themselves.

The most common route for transmission of mpox from infected animals to people is direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, crusts or fluids from sores, saliva, or infected bodily fluids, including respiratory secretions. Urine and feces that contain infectious viral particles may also be a source of infection. It is possible that people with mpox can spread it to animals through close contact, including petting, cuddling, hugging, kissing, licking, sharing sleeping areas, and sharing food.

Can mpox spread through water in pools, hot tubs, or splash pads?

No studies have found a clear link between mpox and water in pools, hot tubs, or splash pads. The mpox virus is killed in water at the chlorine levels recommended for disinfection in recreational water venues by CDC and required by U.S. jurisdictions.

However, it is possible to spread mpox to others through close, skin-to-skin contact. It can also be spread by sharing objects that a person with mpox used, such as towels, kickboards, pool toys, or clothing.

Scientists are Still Researching

  • How often the virus can be spread when someone has no symptoms
  • How often and the circumstances in which mpox virus is spread through respiratory secretions
  • Whether mpox can be spread through semen, vaginal fluids, urine, or feces
Science at CDC

Scientific evidence and studies behind mpox guidance and recommendations.

Science Behind Transmission

Multi-National Technical Reports