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Cancer and mpox

What is mpox?

Mpox (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 mpox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

For the most up-to-date information on mpox in Canada, visit the Government of Canada's website.

Are people with cancer at risk for more severe outcomes from mpox?

If you have cancer, you may be at risk for more serious outcomes of mpox. Cancer is considered an underlying medical condition, and cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation therapy can weaken your immune system and make it harder for you to fight infections like mpox.

What are the symptoms of mpox?

The most common symptom of mpox is a rash. 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
  • hands and feet

The rash usually lasts for 2 to 4 weeks. Eventually it forms scabs that later fall off.

The rash can be accompanied by other symptoms, such as:

  • fever
  • chills
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • headache
  • back, joint and muscle pain
  • exhaustion
People usually develop symptoms 5 to 21 days after being exposed to the mpox virus. Symptoms typically last for 2 to 4 weeks. 

How does mpox spread?

Current evidence suggests that mpox spreads in 3 ways:

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

Anyone can get infected and spread mpox 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 there a vaccine for mpox?

Health Canada has authorized the Imvamune vaccine for immunization against mpox infection in adults 18 years of age and older who have a high risk of exposure to mpox. 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 of exposure and who:

  • are immunocompromised due to cancer or 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 mpox and whether you should get the mpox vaccine.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine and the mpox vaccine at the same time? 

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that the Imvamune  vaccine for mpox and an mRNA vaccine for COVID-19 be given at least 4 weeks apart.

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

For information on who is eligible for the mpox vaccine, visit your provincial or territorial website: