NEWS

How Long Does Monkeypox Last?

monkeypox testing

Verywell Health / Laura Porter

Key Takeaways

  • It can take up to three weeks for monkeypox symptoms to appear after being exposed to the virus.
  • The illness typically begins with flu-like symptoms. Rashes or lesions will usually begin to appear on the body within one to four days after.
  • The illness can last two to four weeks, or even longer in people who have underlying conditions.

Monkeypox carries a relatively long contagion period, especially compared to COVID-19. Experts say understanding how long the virus can last is imperative to preventing transmission.

It can take up to three weeks for monkeypox to evolve into a disease following exposure, as the incubation period is estimated to be anywhere between five and 21 days, according to Donald Alcendor, PhD, a professor of pathology, microbiology, and immunology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

The illness typically begins with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, and swollen lymph nodes before rashes appear, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People usually develop a rash or lesions one to four days after. The lesions will scab and fall off over time.

These symptoms can last from two to four weeks, sometimes even six, Alcendor said, and the duration could be longer for those with underlying health conditions.

How Is Monkeypox Spread?

Monkeypox can spread in a number of ways:

  • Close, sustained skin-to-skin contact with rash, lesions, or bodily fluid from someone with the virus
  • Contact with respiratory droplets
  • Touching surfaces or objects (clothing, towels, or bedding) that have been used by someone with monkeypox

How Long Would You Stay Infectious?

People with monkeypox can spread it to others from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed, according to the CDC.

Alcendor said monkeypox is the most contagious when someone is symptomatic and has an active rash, as the blistering rash contains fluid with high amounts of virus that can be readily transmitted through skin-to-skin contact.

“Identifying infected individuals and quarantining the potentially infected individual for an extended period, such as up to three to four weeks, is critical to controlling the viral spread,” he said.

But not everyone is capable of isolating for weeks at a time. For those who can’t, the CDC recommends keeping all lesions covered, wearing a tight-fitting mask, and avoiding close physical contact or sharing items that have been worn or used. In addition, launder or disinfect used items, clothing, and surfaces that have been touched by a lesion.

What This Means For You

If you have monkeypox, remember that the virus is transmissible from the time your symptoms start until all scabs have fallen off and your skin has healed. If possible, remain in isolation for the duration of the illness.

3 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. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox signs and symptoms.

  2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox: how it spreads.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Isolation and prevention practices for people with monkeypox.

By Mira Miller
Mira Miller is a freelance writer specializing in mental health, women's health, and culture.