Where can I get vaccinated?
Mpox vaccines are currently being rolled out across WA and are available by appointment at sexual health clinics and select GP’s. Vaccines are currently in short supply, so please make sure you are eligible for vaccination by checking the eligibility criteria below before making an appointment.
As vaccine supply is currently limited, those who are at the highest risk of getting the disease and/or severe disease are able to access the vaccine first, free-of-charge.
Mpox vaccination is currently available for the following priority groups:
- Close physical contacts of people infected with mpox, such as intimate partners and people who live in the same household.
- Population groups who might be at higher risk of exposure or further transmissions, such as gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men who have a high number of sexual contacts or are travelling to countries where mpox is present.
- Those where mpox is more likely to result in serious illness, such as immunocompromised populations.
- People whose occupations might put them at increased risk, including laboratory staff and some healthcare workers.
The program is reaching out to people prioritised to receive the vaccine via peer-based organisations, a limited number of general practices and sexual health clinics working with people who are at higher risk.
To book your appointment at M Clinic, please visit the website here and make an online booking, or call on 08 9227 0734.
For all other Sexual Health Clinics and GP’s, please visit the Healthy WA website for more information about where to get vaccinated.
What is mpox?
Mpox is a rare viral infection that is typically transmitted to humans from animals. It is endemic to Central and West Africa, typically in tropical rainforests but also increasingly more in urban areas.
Mpox belongs to the same family of diseases as chickenpox and small pox, though normally only causes a mild illness which most recover from in 2-4 weeks.
Sever illness and death can occur in a small percentage of the population – such as immunocompromised persons – which is why it is important to help keep our most vulnerable safe from harm.
What are the symptoms of mpox?
It usually takes 5 days – 2 weeks from infection to beginning of symptoms, but can be up to 21 days.
Mpox typically begins with flu-like symptoms including fevers, chills, muscle aches, exhaustion, headaches, and swollen lymph nodes.
It then progresses to a rash or lesions, typically reported on the genitals, anus, face, arms, and legs, or inside the mouth, rectum, or urethra – though lesions may appear anywhere on the body.
Mpox symptoms are usually mild and last between 2-4 weeks, but severe cases can occur.
For the latest information on monkeypox click here.
How is mpox transmitted?
Mpox is transmitted through direct physical contact with someone who has symptoms (this could be human, but typically rodents and primates).
The rash, scabs and bodily fluids from lesions are especially infectious. If sores or lesions are present in the mouth, saliva can also be a transmission fluid.
Materials like clothing, bed linen or objects that have encounters with someone with mpox can also be infectious.
Mpox is not a sexually transmitted disease, but the close physical contact during sex can be a pathway for transmission.
How is mpox treated?
Most people experience mild self-limiting illness and recover in a few weeks without needing specific treatment.
People at high-risk like those who are immunosuppressed may have access to therapies. We encourage seeking advice from your local GP if you are concerned.
Because mpox is closely related to the virus that causes smallpox, the smallpox vaccine can protect people from getting mpox. Vaccines may be indicated in persons at greatest risk of getting mpox. In some cases antiviral medications may be advised. Please seek advice from your local GP for more information on this.
Am I at greater risk if I am HIV-positive?
Limited evidence on the effects mpox has on people living with HIV, and most is based on research in countries where access to treatment is low, and experience far negative health outcomes than in Australia.
At the moment people living with HIV should follow the same advice as the general population.
As new information is made available by the Department of Health in this area, we will update this space regularly.
Why is mpox affecting the gay community more?
A large number of cases detected overseas, and majority of those detected in Australia, are among the gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men communities. There are a few reasons why these communities may be more affected by mpox than most, such as members of these communities:
- regularly conducting STI screenings, therefore identifying cases of mpox rather than going unrecorded
- being sexually active and adventurous, such as engaging with multiple partners, visiting sex on premise venues, or participating in sex parties
- travelling to and participating in sex-positive social events, such as Darklands, Folsom, World Pride and more
- understanding that STIs and mpox may happen, and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of
It is important to note that while majority of cases seen are in the gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men communities, mpox is not limited to these communities.
Mpox is not an STI, and can affect anyone who comes into close contact with a confirmed case.
Is mpox an STI?
Mpox is not an STI, as you only need skin-to-skin contact or prolonged exposure to a confirmed case to potentially become infected.
Mpox has been labelled as an STI from the broader community due to a lack of understanding around the disease and how it spreads, and because of a perception around the communities that are most being affected.
Due to how mpox spreads, it is easy to see why some misunderstand and call it an STI, as typically during sex there is a large amount of skin-to-skin contact and prolonged close exposure to your partner. These conditions are likely to spread any number of transmissible illnesses that either partner may be experiencing. You wouldn’t call the flu an STI if you caught it from someone while having sex, and the same is true for mpox.
Why should we be concerned about mpox?
Like with any infectious disease it is important to stay aware and up-to-date with the facts so that you can make informed decisions.
Mpox, while less infectious than COVID-19 and often less serious, has seen a large amount of public interest due to the caution brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and because the information being circulated about mpox is not being quickly adopted by the public.
Mpox is affecting a very small portion of the community, and often only causes mild illness that most recover from in 2-4 weeks while at home.
It is important to be aware and to help try and stop the spread of mpox because there are communities that may be more affected by the disease, such as the immunocompromised or pregnant women, and because we do not want it spreading to remote communities where there is less access to healthcare facilities.
How did mpox start?
Human mpox was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a 9-month-old boy in a region where smallpox had been eliminated in 1968. Since then, most cases have been reported from rural, rainforest regions of the Congo Basin, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and human cases have increasingly been reported from across central and west Africa.
The recent outbreak was first started in May 2022, and was originally identified in a person who travelled back to the UK after visiting Nigeria, where mpox is an endemic disease (meaning that it is regularly identified or present here). From there, mpox has spread to countries where it is not endemic, originating with the initial infection in the UK, and unfortunately spreading from here to countries such as the US, Germany, many countries in Europe, and to Australia.
While there is a current outbreak of mpox seen around the world, mpox is not a new disease and mostly stayed confined to areas where it was endemic.
How do I help stop the spread of mpox?
It is important that we stay aware and alert to the spread of mpox to do what we can to limit its transmission and stop the spread, with the aim of stopping the outbreak for good. This is important as even though mpox is typically only a mild illness that most recover at home from in 2-4 weeks, there are those in the communities that are more susceptible to serious illness, such as pregnant women and immunocompromised persons, and because we want to stop this disease from spreading to regional areas where healthcare is less available.
While we do want to stop the spread of mpox, we understand that sex is fun and that many don’t want to give this up, which is why there are precautions you can take to help keep yourself safe, keep others safe, and to limit your chances of being exposed to mpox.
Ways to reduce your risk before sex
The best thing you can do for yourself and for your partners is to get vaccinated!
The mpox vaccine is currently being rolled out across WA, so if you are in a priority group and eligible for a vaccine, book in! Let your friends know too and go together, make an afternoon of it.
To book in for a vaccination appointment or to check if you’re eligible, scroll up to the top of the page and check the links there.
Reduce your amount of sexual partners
Your risk of coming into contact with a confirmed case of mpox rises with the more sexual partners you have. Even though your hookup may not have travelled overseas or have come into contact with a confirmed case, one of their hookups may have, and may spread down the line to you.
To lower your risk of coming into contact with mpox, reduce your amount of partners to so that you can more easily keep track of contact tracing.
Create a sex bubble
Similar to the above, creating a sex bubble is a way for all members of the bubble to enjoy having sex with each other, without sleeping with anyone else.
This helps to keep contact tracing to a minimal as all members of the bubble are only sleeping with each other, and reduces the risk of encountering mpox as all members are in an isolated sexual relationship with each other.
Share contact information
Anonymous sex can be fun and exciting, but while there is an outbreak currently being experienced it is important that you are able to contact your sexual partners.
Share your contact information with your sexual partners, that way if you or they test positive to mpox, you can be aware and stop the spread before either of you have a chance to pass it on unknowingly.
Ways to reduce your risk during sex
Avoid skin-to-skin contact
While this may sound counterintuitive to sex where clothes typically come off, mpox spreads through skin-to-skin contact, so why not try something different?
Keep your clothes on, try mutual masturbation, engage in virtual sex, or for those that are kink friendly try wearing full body latex and rubber! You can also use condoms while performing blowjobs, dams during rimming, gloves for fingering, and any number of possibilities.
There are plenty of options you can try that reduce skin-to-skin contact while keeping it fun in the bedroom.
Avoid bodily fluids
Similar to the above, mpox can be spread through secretions such as spit, sweat, and semen – depending on where lesions may be present.
It is not always obvious where lesions are, as there may be some in your throat or in your urethra, so keep kissing and spit play to a minimal, wear a condom, and bring a towel for when things get sweaty!
Avoid having sex if you or your partner are unwell
The best thing to do if you or your partner are unsure or not feeling 100% is to avoid having sex. If there are any signs or symptoms that either of you may be coming down with something, it is best to stop and save it for when you’re both feeling better.
It is unlikely that feeling unwell will result in a positive mpox case as case numbers are extremely low, but it is better to be patient and to wait until you’re both feeling better. Plus feeling good will make the sex more enjoyable for both of you regardless!
Mpox and travelling
If you have recently returned from overseas
If you have recently travelled overseas – especially in Europe and North America – and may have come in contact with mpox from a sauna, party, or through sex, it is best to avoid sex for 2 weeks when you return. This is in case symptoms don’t present immediately, as there can be a delay between encountering the disease and showing symptoms.
Use this time to un-pack, get back into day-to-day life, and catch up on the things you’ve missed!
If you have symptoms upon returning or develop symptoms, contact your GP or local sexual health clinic by phone or telehealth.
Remember: If you have respiratory or suspected monkeypox symptoms please call ahead so a doctor or nurse can advice on where you can go for testing. Do not attend a health service in the first instance – be sure to call ahead.
If you are planning to travel overseas
If you are planning to travel overseas and attend any festival or parties, you can reduce your risk of contracting mpox by getting vaccinated, avoiding close contact – including sexual contact – with people who have suspected or confirmed mpox, and by employing the methods above. Avoid skin-to-skin contact, particularly with any rash or lesions.
As always, practice good hygiene, self-isolate if unwell, and seek medical attention if you develop any symptoms.
If your partner recently returned from overseas
If your sexual partner has recently travelled overseas, it is best to refrain from having sex for 2 weeks from their return. This is in case it takes time for symptoms to develop, as symptoms do not always present immediately.
You can try alternate methods such as mutual masturbation, virtual sex, dirty talk, and any other method that doesn’t involve skin-to-skin contact or prolonged exposure.
I’d like to attend or host a sex party, but want to be safe about it.
While there is a current mpox outbreak, we understand that sex is fun, and that many don’t want to give up their lifestyle, so there are things that can be done to reduce the risk – especially for those looking to host or engage in a sex party.
Before you start to plan or RSVP, make sure that you are prepared, safe, and informed, that way you can participate while minimising the risk.
If your are a host
- Ask attendees to do a self-health check for mpox symptoms before arriving. If they feel unwell, or have any rashes, bumps or sores, ask them not to attend until symptoms have cleared.
- Record contact details of all attendees. This will help with contact tracing if needed.
- Consider creating a ‘sex bubble’. Select a group of people to invite to the parties where they are only having sex with each other and won’t have sex with people outside of that group. This limits the risk that attendees will come into contact with mpox.
- If an attendee is a return traveller from places with high numbers of mpox, ask them not to attend until 14 days post arrival home.
If your are an attendee
- Check yourself for mpox symptoms, including a rash, bumps, pimples or sores, or a fever, muscle aches or swollen lymph nodes. If you have any symptoms, don’t attend any parties or gatherings involving skin-to-skin and/or sexual contact and seek medical attention.
- It is important to provide your contact details to help with contact tracing – this can just be your phone number and a first name or even a temporary email address or social media account.
- Consider creating a ‘sex bubble’ and only attending parties or gatherings with a select group of people, where you are only having sex with each other and won’t have sex with people outside of that group. This limits the risk that you will come into contact with mpox.
- If you have recently returned from travelling, and had sex whilst away, wait for 14 days after arriving back in WA before having sex. Monitor for symptoms during this time and seek medical attention if symptoms develop.
general cleaning advice
- Specialist cleaning is not required. Mpox viruses are sensitive to many household disinfectants, including detergent solution (soap and water) for cleaning and bleach solution for disinfection after cleaning. A single product (combined cleaning and disinfection agent) wipe or solution can also be used e.g., cleaning and disinfection wipes available at local supermarkets.
- Limit sharing items such as bedding, and towels, which can pass the infection on from one person to another.
- In addition to routine cleaning, areas should be frequently cleaned if soiled with semen, faeces, blood, urine or lubricant.
- Targeted areas for cleaning include any surfaces that might be in contact with people’s skin, such as benches, chairs, walls, beds and sofas.
- Linen should be washed with detergent using a hot wash cycle.
- Try to cover any soft furnishings.
- If disposable wipes are used ensure an adequate number of wipes are used for the area and surface is damp.
- Dusting and mopping are recommended to prevent spread of infectious particles. If using a vacuum, use only a machine with HEPA filtration – ensure mask, gloves (and if possible, an apron/gown that can be washed or disposed of after) are worn when emptying vacuum into a waste bag.
- Ensure cleaning equipment and reusable cloths are only used once and cleaned or laundered before reuse.
- If using sex toys, consider covering with a condom, clean and disinfect after each use, and clean hands before and after handling, using soap or an alcohol-based hand rub
- Fetish gear needs to be cleaned and disinfected after use.
- Each person should only handle their own condoms and waste (tissues, paper towel etc). These items should be bagged and disposed of in general waste.
Where can I get more information?
Here are some sources of information:
You can call the M Clinic’s HIV/STI Info Line on 1300 565 257 for more information between:
Monday, Wednesday and Thursday: 1:30pm – 8pm
Tuesday: 10am -4:30pm
Friday: 10am – 3pm
You can also call SHQ’s Sexual Health Helpline from 9:30am – 3:30pm Monday to Friday on:
Metro callers: 9227 6178
Country callers: 1800 198 205