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Since May 2022, an mpox outbreak affecting primarily men who have sex with men (MSM) has occurred in numerous non-endemic countries worldwide. As MSM frequently reported multiple sexual encounters in this outbreak, reliably determining the time of infection is difficult; consequently, estimation of the incubation period is challenging.


We aimed to provide valid and precise estimates of the incubation period distribution of mpox by using cases associated with early outbreak settings where infection likely occurred.


Colleagues in European countries were invited to provide information on exposure intervals and date of symptom onset for mpox cases who attended a fetish festival in Antwerp, Belgium, a gay pride festival in Gran Canaria, Spain or a particular club in Berlin, Germany, where early mpox outbreaks occurred. Cases of these outbreaks were pooled; doubly censored models using the log-normal, Weibull and Gamma distributions were fitted to estimate the incubation period distribution.


We included data on 122 laboratory-confirmed cases from 10 European countries. Depending on the distribution used, the median incubation period ranged between 8 and 9 days, with 5th and 95th percentiles ranging from 2 to 3 and from 20 to 23 days, respectively. The shortest interval that included 50% of incubation periods spanned 8 days (4–11 days).


Current public health management of close contacts should consider that in approximately 5% of cases, the incubation period exceeds the commonly used monitoring period of 21 days.


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