How to protect yourself from MPOX (monkeypox)
Unless you’ve been hanging out under a rock (or a pair 😉), you might have heard of the MPOX (Monkeypox) outbreak sweeping through North America and Europe.
Thankfully we are yet to see a significant outbreak in Australia. However, the situation in NSW is rapidly changing, so it’s best to keep across any new MPOX information as it becomes available.
NSW has now recorded community transmission
In NSW, MPOX transmission is occurring primarily between gay, bi and other men who have sex with men. So far, the majority of cases in NSW have been acquired overseas; however, we have now begun identifying instances of local community transmission of MPOX between guys who haven’t left the country.
How IS MPOX (monkeypox) transmitted?
You are most likely to acquire MPOX following close skin-to-skin contact with someone who has MPOX and has rashes, lesions or sores. Currently, sex seems to be the primary method in which MPOX is being transmitted, though it is still possible to transmit through other forms of contact.
You can also acquire MPOX when a person with MPOX sneezes or coughs (and you inhale infected droplets) or by touching items, such as bedding, contaminated with MPOX.
For more about MPOX causes, symptoms and treatment, visit our MPOX Information page here.
How to protect you and your partners from MPOX (monkeypox)
Due to international demand, there is a limited supply of vaccines for MPOX. So while we wait to receive more, consider adopting these temporary measures to reduce your risk of exposure to MPOX. Changing our behaviour will help slow the spread of MPOX until the vaccine supply is adequate.
Taking these measures that will reduce the risk of MPOX exposure is also important when you are between your first and second shots of the vaccine. Your protection will be highest two weeks after your second dose of the vaccine.
Find more about MPOX vaccines and the vaccination program by NSW Health here.
Limit your sexual networks
Consider limiting your hook-ups to your existing network for the time being. Creating a bubble of trusted people you are going to be having sex with will reduce the likelihood of exposure to MPOX. It’s important to remember that this is only temporary while we wait to receive more vaccines.
Swap contact information
If you aren’t already, make a habit of exchanging contact information with any new sexual partner/s. This will assist with any contact tracing efforts if you or one of your partners test positive.
Reduce sexual partners to lessen MPOX exposure
For the moment, hooking-up with multiple partners presents a higher likelihood of MPOX transmission. While we wait for more vaccines to arrive, consider reducing your sexual partners for the time being. This will lessen your risk of exposure to MPOX.
If you’ve travelled to an MPOX hotspot overseas, hold off sex for now
If you are a returned traveller from either North America, Europe, or another area experiencing an MPOX outbreak, and you hooked-up or attended sex parties, saunas or sex clubs while there, get an STI screen when you get home and reduce your hook-ups. It is recommended that you hold off from sex for 14 days to monitor your health. If symptoms develop, seek medical attention immediately. Learn more about MPOX symptoms here.
Use the following strategies to reduce your risk of MPOX while hooking-up
Here are some strategies you can use to minimise the risk of MPOX transmission while you are having sex:
- Use virtual methods (e.g. Video call on a phone or webcam) with no person-to-person contact
- Masturbate together without touching each other, and do not touch any sores or rash
- Reduce skin-to-skin contact as much as possible by leaving on clothing
- Avoid kissing or spit
- Avoid sharing sex toys
- If you’ve previously had MPOX, use a condom during both oral and anal sex for at least eight weeks after recovery from MPOX.
Be aware that MPOX can also spread through respiratory secretions with close, face-to-face contact.
Going out: Reducing your risk at festivals, clubs and parties
There are simple steps you can take before venturing out to help protect yourself and your community:
- Seek information from trusted sources like local health authorities – particularly when travelling interstate and overseas.
- Check yourself for symptoms before you leave home. If you feel unwell or sick or have rashes or sores, do not attend events or venues. Self-isolate and seek medical advice.
Consider the type of event you are planning to attend and how much direct skin-to-skin contact is likely to happen:
- Events such as festivals and concerts where people are fully clothed and unlikely to have skin-to-skin contact are low risk. But remember that close physical contact such as kissing may spread MPOX.
- Events such as a party or club where there is less clothing worn, and therefore a higher likelihood of direct skin-to-skin contact, have some risk. Avoid any rashes or sores you see on others and minimise skin-to-skin contact.
- Events held in enclosed spaces such as sex parties, saunas and sex-on-premises venues, where intimate sexual contact with multiple partners occurs, carry a higher risk of MPOX transmission.
Learn more about what to do if you think you have been exposed to MPOX here.
Stay self-aware of your health and monitor for symptoms
It’s best to regularly monitor for MPOX symptoms such as unusual rashes, lesions or sores or fever, muscle aches or swollen lymph nodes. This is particularly important if you have attended any gatherings involving skin-to-skin contact with other people, have had close physical contact with others including sexual encounters, or if you have recently returned from or are travelling to an international location with known cases of MPOX.
If you develop any symptoms, self-isolate and seek medical attention immediately.
If you have been identified as a close contact...
If you have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for MPOX, you will receive a call from NSW Health’s Public Health Unit.
Follow the Public Health Unit’s recommendations, including instructions on limiting your movements, and if and when and how to attend a health service for review.
Those deemed to be high risk close contacts should not engage in any sexual activity for 21 days after their exposure.
If you have any questions or concerns, contact NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624.
If you have contracted MPOX...
People who have contracted MPOX should not engage in any sexual activity while infectious.
Avoid kissing and touching each other’s bodies – especially any rash or sores.
Do not share things like sex toys or fetish gear during this time.
And because it is not known how long MPOX remains present in semen and other genital excretions, people who have recovered should use condoms for both oral and anal sex for eight weeks after recovery. This precaution reduces the risk of spreading the infection to sexual partners.
I think we can loose this due to the length of the overall article. People identified as close contacts will be promptly contacted and given the information they need.
I’ve had my first dose of the MPOX vaccine. When do I get my second dose?
The JYNNEOS vaccine is given as a two-dose vaccine with each dose given around six to eight weeks apart. However, at this time, due to limited supply in NSW, you may receive your second dose after this period. The clinic you attended will contact you when it is time for your next dose.
If you received your first dose at a NSW Health vaccination site, you do not need to register again online. You will be contacted.
Please be patient as we wait for more vaccines to arrive in NSW. With the currently limited supply, NSW Health are working to get as many first doses administered to those at high risk of MPOX.
Continue to take steps to reduce your risk of exposure to MPOX, even if you have already received one dose. Once you have been vaccinated, you should continue to protect yourself by avoiding direct skin-to-skin contact, including sex or other intimate contact, as well as items such as bedding or towels with a person who has MPOX.
If you think you might have symptoms of MPOX, please call ahead to your GP or local sexual health clinic. Wear a mask when attending the clinic.
If you have questions about MPOX, contact the NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624.
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