What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease caused by the monkeypox virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus, this includes the variola virus (which causes smallpox). Monkeypox is characterized by rash or skin lesions that are usually concentrated on the face, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet.

Two distinct clades are identified: the west African clade and the Congo Basin clade, also known as the central African clade. Human infections with the West African strain appear to cause less severe disease compared to the Congo Basin strain.


Monkeypox can spread to people when they come into physical contact with an infected animal. Traditionally, monkeypox is transmitted from person to person mainly through direct or indirect contact with the rash, bodily fluids (such as fluid, pus, or blood from skin lesions), and scabs are particularly infectious. Clothing, bedding, towels, or objects like eating utensils/dishes that have been contaminated with the virus from contact with an infected person can also infect others.

The virus can also spread from someone who is pregnant to the fetus from the placenta, or from an infected parent to child during or after birth through skin-to-skin contact. It is not clear whether people who do not have symptoms can spread the disease.


There are no specific treatments for monkeypox virus infection. Monkeypox symptoms often resolve on their own without the need for treatment. Clinical care for monkeypox should be fully optimized to alleviate symptoms, manage complications and prevent long-term sequelae. It is important to take care of the rash by letting it dry if possible or covering it with a moist dressing to protect the area if needed. Avoid touching any sores in the mouth or eyes. Mouth rinses and eye drops can be used as long as cortisone-containing products are avoided. An antiviral that was developed to treat smallpox (tecovirimat, commercialized as TPOXX) was also approved for the treatment of monkeypox in January 2022. More info

To learn about the Situation in the Region of the Americas, read the latest PAHO Epidemiological Update on Monkeypox in non-endemic countries.

Key facts

Read the monkeypox Q&A and technical considerations for more information.


What PAHO does

The Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) supports the Member States with surveillance, preparedness, and outbreak response activities for monkeypox in affected countries. WHO is working to improve access to a vaccine that was developed for smallpox (MVA-BN, also known as Imvamune, Imvanex, or Jynneos) which was approved in 2019 for use in preventing monkeypox and is not yet widely available.

Additionally, given the occurrence of cases of monkeypox in countries within and outside of the Region of the Americas, PAHO/WHO shared with its Member States a series of considerations in relation to the identification of cases, the isolation, identification, and follow-up of contacts, the clinical management, and the prevention and control of healthcare-associated infections. Guidance regarding available treatment and vaccines is also provided.