How Contagious is Monkeypox Compared to COVID-19?

Khang T. Vuong, MHA
Khang T. Vuong, MHA25 Jul 2022

According to our research, Monkeypox has a reproduction rate R of 0.85, compared to 8.2 that of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, making Monkeypox less contagious compared to COVID-19. With an R number of less than 1, Monkeypox has yet to reach pandemic potential.

The R number indicates, on average, how many people an infected person will go on to infect. For example, an R number of 10 means an infected person will infect 10 new people. The higher the R number, the more exponentially infectious disease can be.

Research on Monkeypox has been around for over 20 years. Monkeypox isn’t a new virus or variation. However, the viral infection has seen a spike in interest as communities in the UK and Canada have increased outbreaks.


What is Monkeypox?

According to the CDC, monkeypox comes from the same family as smallpox and cowpox. The disease was initially found in 1958 when researchers discovered an outbreak among a colony of monkeys. In the 1970s, researchers saw the disease had spread to humans during efforts to eliminate smallpox in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

There are two clades of monkeypox. According to, a clade is defined as “a taxonomic group of organisms classified together on the basis of homologous features traced to a common ancestor.” One clade comes from West Africa, while the other comes from Congo Basin.

Child diagnosed with monkeypox Source: CDC


Where can Monkeypox be found in the United States?

As of July 25th, 2022, the United States has had nearly 3000 confirmed cases. with 900 cases being in New York. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently declared monkeypox to be a global emergency. Countries that have previously not had a history of monkeypox outbreaks have seen over 16,000 cases.

How contagious is Monkeypox compared to COVID?

Monkeypox is less contagious than Covid-19. Both can be passed through extended exposure through respiratory droplets. Unlike covid-19, monkeypox can also be passed through contact with lesions, cuts, and body fluid. 

Reproduction rate R of Monkeypox verses Covid-19

VirusReproduction Rate
*Covid-19 Alpha2.79
Covid-19 Delta~5.00 (2x Alpha)
Covid-19 Omicron~8.2 (2.5x Delta)

*Data for monkeypox reproduction rate based on a model using immunity data from Scientific American and NCBI

While monkeypox is contagious, Covid-19 has a higher reproduction rate. This makes it more contagious than monkeypox, especially with Omicron being 99% of cases in the US.

How can I catch Monkeypox?

As stated before, monkeypox is shared through lesions, cuts, and respiratory drops. You cannot catch monkeypox just by being in the same room as someone with it. You have to have direct contact with them and swap body fluids or touch something that has been contaminated with the virus. Due to this, the virus has impacted those who have anonymous or multiple-sex partners.

Ways Monkeypox can be transmitted

  • Direct contact with bodily fluids like sex or prolonged face-to-face contact
  • Contact with contaminated materials like clothing or bedding
  • Contact with broken skin through the bite from an infected animal or lesion of an infected person
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Ways Monkeypox cannot be transmitted

  • Walking past someone with the virus
  • Sitting in the same room as someone with the virus
  • Eating food from international communities - eat meat that is thoroughly cooked

Is there a vaccine for Monkeypox?

Yes. There are two FDA-approved vaccines, ACAM200 and JYNNEOS, used to fight monkeypox. Currently, we can use both as smallpox vaccines. They have been tested on whether or not they can protect us against monkeypox, with Jynneos being 85% effective

Who is eligible for the vaccine?

Since the creation of the vaccine, smallpox has no longer been seen as a threat or concern. Those who are more likely to contract smallpox and monkeypox are the ones who can get the vaccine which means lab workers. Typically only given to healthcare workers, it is unlikely you will qualify for the vaccine. However, in some cities like New York City, you are eligible if you are a man who has sex with men or someone who has anonymous sex as both can increase the chance of exposure. According to President Joe Biden, monkeypox is not a concern that needs quarantining. Still, people should continue to be mindful of exposure.

How can I get the Monkeypox vaccine?

You can qualify for the vaccine by being a researcher of smallpox and monkeypox, healthcare personnel who work directly with people who have smallpox, or someone who administers the vaccine. Once you meet those requirements, you will be notified by health authorities. The vaccine will protect you against the virus for 3 years, after which you’ll have to get a booster shot.

What are the symptoms of Monkeypox?

Monkeypox has an incubation period of about 5-21 days in which the person is not contagious. Once they begin to show signs of illness, they can spread the virus. 

Considered “cousins,” the symptoms of monkeypox and smallpox are similar with 2 differences. Monkeypox causes the lymph nodes to swell, while smallpox symptoms typically include vomiting.

List of Symptoms for Monkeypox and Covid-19.

Muscle AcheYesYes
Swollen Lymph NodesYesNo
Lesions in Mouth/TongueYesNo
Lesions around Anus, Genitals, and MouthYesNo
Sore ThroatNoYes
Shortness of BreathNoYes
Lost of Taste/SmellNoYes
Congestion or Runny NoseNoYes

With Monkeypox, once these symptoms show, the person is contagious. A signal that the virus is no longer in the person’s body is that the scabs have fallen off.

There are similarities between the symptoms of covid-19 and monkeypox. However, major the difference between the two is that with monkeypox, you will have a rash and lesions in the mouth, which currently aren’t symptoms of covid-19.

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Ways to reduce your risk of monkeypox

Due to the nature of the virus, the best way to prevent the spread of monkeypox is to not be in direct contact with someone or an animal who has the virus. If you must, wear PPE and wash your hands thoroughly. The CDC also recommends you don’t touch bedding and other materials used by a patient or an animal with the virus. The items should be washed separately as well. Finally, those infected should be isolated away from people who have not been.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Monkeypox

Monkeypox has been in the news a lot and you may have some questions about the disease.

Is Monekeypox originated from monkeys?

Sort of. The monkeypox virus was originally found in monkey colonies that were used for research in 1958. They couldn’t find the source of the virus as it can also be found in African squirrels, rodents, and prairie dogs. 

Will I catch monkeypox?

Based on our data, you likely won't catch Monkeypox unless you've been in very close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with it. Be sure to take precautions by wearing PPE, washing your hands, and if you are a healthcare professional, making sure your vaccines are up-to-date.

Will Monkeypox turn out like covid-19?

According to President Joe Biden, we currently do not have to fear monkeypox spreading and impacting us the same way covid-19 did. Monkeypox is spread through direct contact, and we have successfully eradicated the virus in the past.

Bottom Line

With covid-19 shaking everyone’s world and changing how we live, it makes sense to be worried about another virus and what it will do. Thankfully, Monkeypox, while very contagious, is something that the United States has been able to eradicate in the past and isn’t a threat. If you have any concerns, especially if you’ve traveled internationally or have had close contact with someone who has had monkeypox, contact your doctor immediately.

When we’re unsure what can happen next, whether it’s a recession or another variant, Mira can offer an affordable solution to help you access same-day lab testing, discounted prescriptions, and urgent care for an average of $45 a month. Sign up today to get started.

Khang T. Vuong, MHA

Khang T. Vuong received his Master of Healthcare Administration from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. He was named Forbes Healthcare 2021 30 under 30. Vuong spoke at Stanford Medicine X, HIMSS conference, and served as a Fellow at the Bon Secours Health System.