What you need to know about mpox

By Katarina Fiorentino Klatzkow

With summer in full swing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is updating recommendations and encouraging Americans to protect themselves against seasonal and other outbreaks of infectious diseases.

Recently, several U.S. states, including Ohio and California, have reported increased outbreaks of mpox, a highly transmissible virus.

Reported cases are the clade II variant of the disease, which is making its second appearance in the U.S. after a global outbreak in 2022.

Now, a particularly virulent variant of mpox, known as clade I, is sweeping through parts of central Africa. While there have been no reports of clade I reaching the United States, public health experts are raising alarm bells about the possibility of a global outbreak of this more destructive variant, which causes higher rates of severe disease and death in patients when compared with other forms of mpox.

In a recent article by NBC Health News, infectious disease experts, including Ira Longini, Ph.D., of the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions, discuss the potential impact of the clade I variant on the U.S.

“We’re facing a big, potentially dangerous situation,” Longini, a professor in the department of biostatistics, told NBC News. “But we really don’t know.”

Public health officials are monitoring the outbreaks of clade I abroad, as well as any reported cases of clade II in the United States, as summer travel heats up.

Additionally, the CDC recommends at risk-groups get vaccinated with the Jynneos two-dose vaccination. Vaccination, says the CDC, appears to provide long-term protection against mpox.

Drew Westmoreland
Drew Westmoreland, Ph.D., MSPH.

Drew Westmoreland, Ph.D., MSPH, an assistant professor in the UF PHHP department of epidemiology and a member of UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, has dedicated her research career to studying sexually transmitted infections as well as health disparities impacting LGBTQ+ individuals. Recently, this has included mpox.

She shares common misconceptions about the mpox disease and steps you can take to protect yourself from infection.

Question: What is mpox and who is at risk?

Answer: Mpox is caused by the monkeypox virus and is in the same family as smallpox. Although there are outbreaks and cases of mpox all over the world in varying populations, people who identify as gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men are the highest burdened communities in the United States. Therefore, these communities are the primary focus of our prevention efforts.

Q: How is mpox transmitted?

A: One of the reasons people should take precautionary steps to avoid mpox is because it can lead to flu-like symptoms, rashes and sores. These rashes and sores can cause things like itchiness, pain and severe discomfort on any part of the body, and if it is spread through sexual contact, rashes can form on sensitive areas like the genitals. Mpox spreads through close and intimate contact. This includes skin-to-skin contact with sores or rashes, or an individual coming in physical contact with saliva, mucus or other bodily fluids from an infected person. This contact can happen in a few different scenarios including hugging, kissing or more intimate contact like sex. 

Q: What can people do to protect themselves against mpox?

A: Think about getting vaccinated! There is a vaccine for mpox and you can consult with your medical care provider to determine if getting vaccinated is right for you. In general, the best way to prevent getting mpox is to avoid contact with an infected person. This can include reducing the number of sex partners, so, if mpox is of concern, you may want to consider these steps, too. In both our research and scholarly work from other researchers, we found that people did attempt to reduce their risk by changing their sexual behavior during the 2022 outbreak.

If you do come into close contact with an infected person, you will want to watch to see if any new rashes or sores develop over the next 21 days. Sometimes infections may appear as more obvious rashes, but they can also look like small pimples. If you do have a new rash or sore and may have come into contact with an infected person, seek out testing and medical advice.

Q: What should someone do if they get infected?


  • Contact your medical provider or local hospital.
  • Avoid scratching or touching any rashes.
  • Cover any sores and rashes to protect yourself and others.
  • Avoid sharing items, like clothing, with others.
  • Clean all shared areas and disinfect common spaces to avoid spreading the virus.