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Division of Communicable Disease Control


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Mpox vs. COVID-19 

This page was last updated on December 8, 2022 and is for historical purposes only.

Although the sudden emergence of mpox can be alarming after over two years of living through the COVID-19 pandemic, mpox is not a new virus and does not​ spread in the same way as COVID-19. The table below shows a comparison of mpox and COVID-19.  




How widespread is it?

Typically found in or linked to central and western African countries.  Since May 2022, cases have been identified in many other countries, including the U.S. However, mpox is much less common than COVID-19. 

While it's good to stay alert about emerging public health outbreaks, the current risk of getting mpox in the general public is very low.   

Hundreds of millions of cases since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, and still spreading widely throughout the world. 

When was it first identified?

Not a new virus – around since 1958.

A novel virus - around since 2019.

How does it spread?

By very close and/or prolonged contact with someone with symptoms, including through: 

  • Close physical/intimate skin-to-skin contact, including sex 
  • Contact with contaminated materials (towels, bedding and clothing) 
  • Respiratory droplets spread by close and prolonged face-to-face interaction 

Mpox is much less contagious than COVID-19. 

Through tiny droplets in the air by breathing, talking, sneezing, or coughing. It is extremely infectious. Can spread from others who have the virus, even if they don't have symptoms. 


What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Rash with firm bumps on face, hands, feet, body, or genitals
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Low energy

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Trouble breathing
  • Stomach issues
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Cold symptoms

How is it prevented?

  • Avoid close physical contact with people who have symptoms, including sores or rashes 
  • Talk to your sexual partner/s about any recent illness and be aware of new or unexplained sores or rashes 
  • Avoid contact with , contaminated materials 
  • Wear PPE (mask, gloves, gown) if you can't avoid close contact with someone who has symptoms 
  • Practice good hand hygiene 

  • Get vaccinated and boosted 
  • Wear a mask in indoor settings and crowded outdoor settings 
  • Meet others outdoors or in well ventilated spaces  

Are there variants?

All viruses change and evolve over time. However, the mpox virus mutates slower than coronaviruses.   

There are two known families or “clades” of mpox virus. The clade recently identified in Europe, Canada, and in the United States is the West African clade, which tends to cause less severe disease.

There are many variants of SARS-CoV-2 (virus that causes COVID-19).  

This virus mutates rapidly. 

If you have symptoms

  • Always stay home if you're sick 
  • Cover any blisters or skin lesions 
  • Isolate from others and wear a mask if you have to be around others 
  • Contact a health care provider right away to talk about diagnosis, testing, and treatment options

  • Always stay home if you're sick 
  • Get tested. 
  • If you test positive, isolate from others 
  • Contact a health care provider right away to talk about treatment options

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