Monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted infection because it is not transmitted exclusively through sex. It is most easily spread through contact with the lesions that are caused by the virus. Because skin-to-skin contact occurs during sex, it often is passed along during sexual activity.
But it can also travel through respiratory droplets while kissing. And it can be contracted by touching surfaces, clothing and bedding contaminated by secretions from an infected person or the fluid or scab tissue from lesions.
The virus is considered to be contagious when symptoms show up until the scabs fall off of lesions and new skin grows.
Because monkeypox is not an STI, it is not prevented reliably with condoms or abstinence. It is not, however, an airborne disease and is difficult to pass to others through casual contact.
The current cases, so far, have mostly been related to the type of contact that occurs during sex and are among people who have had sexual encounters, according to experts.
Casual contact like handshakes and even sharing food can carry the possibility of transmission, but the risk and chances of that happening are extremely low and are not the cause of the cases in the current outbreak, said Dr. Jennifer Shuford, chief state epidemiologist.
Health officials are advising men who have sex with men to take extra precautions because, so far, that is who has almost exclusively been impacted. But anyone can be infected, and experts believe the virus is likely to increasingly spread beyond that demographic.