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Do Condoms Protect Against Monkeypox?

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Key Takeaways

  • Wearing a condom may protect certain areas of the body, including the anus, mouth, penis or vagina from exposure to monkeypox, according to the CDC.
  • But condom use alone may not prevent exposure to the virus since rashes and lesions can occur on other parts of the body. 
  • Getting vaccinated, avoiding close contact with others, and limiting sexual partners are some things people can do to protect against infection.

Recent studies have suggested that sexual contact is driving a majority of monkeypox transmission in the current outbreak.

The World Health Organization has advised men to abstain from sex or reduce their number of sexual partners to lower the risk of exposure. But monkeypox can infect anyone.

Health authorities in the United States have largely focused their public health messaging on getting vaccinated and practicing safer sex. Since most of the current cases have been recorded after sexual contact, will wearing a condom protect you against the monkeypox virus?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), condoms may protect your anus (butthole), mouth, penis, or vagina from exposure to monkeypox, but they alone may not protect you from rashes that are on other parts of the body.

“If it’s chest to chest, chest to back, or even holding hands, then condoms are not going to prevent that kind of transmission of the virus,” said Matthew Hamill, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor of medicine who specializes in STIs and HIV at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Theoretically, if the infection is only limited to the shaft of a penis and the condom can cover the area, then it may reduce the chance of infection, he added.

“But clinically, that’s not what we’re seeing. We’re usually seeing much more widespread skin lesions,” Hamill said.

How Much Protection Can a Condom Offer Against Monkeypox?

There’s not enough data or information at this time to indicate how much protection a condom may provide against monkeypox, said Linda Yancey, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston.

“We really don’t know right now. However, given the large number of people that have oral and rectal lesions, which can be quite painful, condoms are a simple and prudent precaution,” Yancey told Verywell.

Although sexual contact is the main driver of the current outbreak, she said, there are other ways to contract the virus, including through direct contact with open wounds and respiratory droplets.

Eric Cioe-Peña, MD, director of Global Health at the Staten Island University Hospital, told Verywell in an email that even though condoms may cover an isolated penile lesion, the protection would be considered “very little.” 

Despite this, Cioe-Peña and other health experts encourage the use of condoms to not only reduce some risk of monkeypox infection but to generally prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

In addition to wearing a condom during sexual intercourse, experts recommend getting vaccinated if you’re eligible and have access to the vaccine. If you have new sexual partners, share your contact details in case you need to follow up with each other.

The CDC also recommends reducing the risk of transmission by avoiding kissing or exchanging spit.

“Monkeypox is something to be aware of but not panicked about,” Yancey said. “Simple, common sense precautions can be highly effective at limiting the spread.”

What This Means For You

Wearing a condom may protect you against genital rashes from monkeypox, but you can still be infected if you come into contact with rashes or lesions on other parts of the body. In general, people should wear a condom as a precaution and practice other safety measures to protect against monkeypox infection.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Thornhill JP, Barkati S, Walmsley S, et al. Monkeypox virus infection in humans across 16 countries — April–June 2022N Engl J Med. 2022;387(8):679-691. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2207323

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Safer sex, social gatherings, and monkeypox.

By Alyssa Hui
Alyssa Hui is a St. Louis-based health and science news writer. She was the 2020 recipient of the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association Jack Shelley Award.