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Cancer and monkeypox

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is usually a self-limited viral infection with a rash that may be painful. Self-limited means that most people recover after a few weeks without taking medicine. But in some cases, people can become very sick and could die.

In July 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

For the most up-to-date information on monkeypox in Canada, visit canada.ca/monkeypox.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

People usually develop symptoms 5 to 21 days after being exposed to the monkeypox virus. Symptoms typically last from 2 to 4 weeks and may pass through several stages. The rash can be painful and could affect any part of the body, such as the:

  • mouth
  • genitals
  • skin around the anus (perianal skin)
  • face
  • arms and legs
  • feet
  • hands

The rash usually lasts between 14 and 28 days. It finally forms scabs that later fall off. The rash can be accompanied by general symptoms such as:

  • fever
  • chills
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • joint pain
  • back pain
  • exhaustion

How does monkeypox spread?

Current evidence suggests that monkeypox spreads in 3 ways:

  • from person to person
  • through direct contact with contaminated objects
  • from animals to humans

How do you get infected?

Anyone can get infected and spread monkeypox if they come into close contact with someone who has the virus, regardless of:

  • sex
  • race
  • gender 
  • sexual orientation

Having multiple sexual partners may increase your overall risk of infection.

Is a vaccine for monkeypox available?

Health Canada has authorized the Imvamune vaccine for immunization against monkeypox infection in adults 18 years of age and older who have a high risk of exposure to monkeypox. The vaccine helps your body build immunity without getting very sick. 

The vaccine may also be offered to people who are at a higher risk for exposure and who:

  • are immunocompromised due to cancer, other diseases or treatments
  • are pregnant
  • are breastfeeding
  • are under 18 years of age
  • have atopic dermatitis

Talk to your healthcare team about your risk of exposure to monkeypox and whether you should get the monkeypox vaccine.

What is the best time to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the monkeypox vaccine? 

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that Imvamune be given at least 4 weeks after or before an mRNA vaccine for COVID-19.

Who is eligible for the monkeypox vaccine in each province and territory?

For information on who is eligible for a monkeypox vaccine, refer to your provincial or territorial website: