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MONKEYPOX: Your Top 5 FAQ – Answered

Our in-house pandemic experts answer your FAQ about monkeypox.

Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a global health emergency. Earlier this month, the United States Department of Health and Human Services declared monkeypox a public health emergency. Several states in the USA have declared states of emergency because of monkeypox outbreaks.

None of us in America have ever lived through two simultaneous virus outbreaks on this scale, so we here at Epitome Risk and FourthWall Testing want to provide clear, easy to understand answers to your questions. Below are the top five most frequently asked questions about monkeypox, answered by our in-house pandemic experts.

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is the less severe – and (currently) less well-known – cousin of smallpox. Both are members of a virus family called orthopoxvirus.

The monkeypox virus causes a painful rash, often accompanied by flu-like symptoms. It was first discovered in 1958 in a group of monkeys (hence its name) but spreads primarily through rodents.

There are two known types (clades) of monkeypox: The more severe Central African Clade and the less severe West African Clade. The West African Glade is responsible for the current global monkeypox outbreak.

What are the symptoms of Monkeypox?

Before the rash appears, some infected persons will have symptoms similar to the flu or COVID-19. This can make monkeypox hard to identify in the early stages of infection. Some will only experience the rash and still others will get the rash first, followed by flu-like symptoms.

Monkeypox’s rash runs through a progression from bumps that then fill with pus, then become engorged, burst, and finally scab over before eventually healing.

This rash can appear on any part of the body, but tends to concentrate on the face, arms, legs, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet. It is contagious until the skin is fully healed and can remain on and in the body for several weeks.

How Does Monkeypox Spread?

While monkeypox has been around for over 60 years, there are still some things we don’t yet know about the virus. So, to answer the question of how it spreads, let’s divide things into two categories:

  • What we know
  • What we don’t know yet

Let’s start with what we know about how the monkeypox virus spreads.

What We Know

An infected person can spread the virus from the moment they begin to show signs of infection until the rash has healed and new, healthy skin has formed in the formerly infected areas. This means a person can be contagious for approximately 2-4 weeks.

According to the CDC, the WHO, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), monkeypox can spread in the following ways:  

  • Direct person-to-person contact: This involves contact between an infected person who is actively showing signs of infection. Contact with the pox themselves or scabs from the pox will spread the virus. Inhalation of skin particles from pox can also lead to infection.
  • Intimate Contact: Monkeypox spreads through contact related to sexual intercourse. (See below about bodily fluids during sex).
  • Animal-to-person contact: Animals tend to spread it to humans through scratches and bites, but they can spread it just like humans, through contact with the pox.
  • Contact with respiratory droplets: There is still much we don’t know yet about this type of spreading (see below), but we do know that monkeypox can and does spread through respiratory droplets.
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces: Contact with surfaces, objects, and fabrics previously touched by someone with an active monkeypox infection can spread the virus.
  • Eating or drinking contaminated materials: According to the DHS , monkeypox can remain stable in water and refrigerated food for up to several weeks.
  • Monkeypox crosses the placenta: A pregnant person infected with the monkeypox virus can pass the virus on to the fetus through the placenta.

What We Don’t Know Yet

Scientists are working around the clock to learn even more about the monkeypox virus. Here are a few things the scientific community is still researching:

  • If persons with no symptoms (asymptomatic carriers) can still spread monkeypox.
  • How often respiratory secretions are responsible for the spread of monkeypox.
  • If there is a time period during infection when someone is more likely to spread the virus through their respiratory secretions.
  • If semen, vaginal fluids, urine, breastmilk, or feces can spread monkeypox.

What are the Treatments for Monkeypox?

Monkeypox infections are painful and there are no specific treatments for monkeypox. The symptoms themselves can be treated, however; for instance, healthcare providers might give an infected person pain relievers and fever reducers.

If you think you might be infected with monkeypox call your medical provider immediately, isolate yourself from others to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, and follow these instructions from the CDC.  

The polar opposite of COVID-19, monkeypox tends to be much more severe in children. Infections, however, are not often fatal. As the WHO notes, “The case fatality ratio of monkeypox has historically ranged from 0 to 11 % in the general population and has been higher among young children. In recent times, the case fatality ratio has been around 3–6%.”

Monkeypox can lead to a variety of complications such as:

  • secondary infections
  • bronchopneumonia
  • sepsis
  • encephalitis
  • infection of the cornea with ensuing loss of vision.

What Can I do to Help Prevent the Spread of Monkeypox?

To help prevent the spread of monkeypox and to keep yourself from contracting the virus, you should follow the following steps:

  1. Wash your hands: COVID-19 taught everyone how to properly wash and sanitize our hands. We need to keep up this good hygiene habit to help prevent the spread of monkeypox.
  2. Sanitize high-touch surfaces: Monkeypox can live on surfaces after contact with an infected person. Thoroughly clean and sanitize potentially contaminated surfaces.
  3. Wash potentially contaminated fabrics: Thoroughly wash all clothes, sheets, an upholstery that has come in contact with an infected person. Follow CDC guidelines for laundry found here.
  4. Practice Social Distancing: By avoiding crowded spaces and remaining socially distant, you can decrease your risk of monkeypox exposure.
  5. Learn what the monkeypox rash looks like.
  6. Stay informed about monkeypox in your area.
  7. If someone has a rash that looks like monkeypox, avoid skin-to-skin contact with that person and remain distant if possible.
  8. Do not touch anything that someone infected with monkeypox has recently touched: be sure to wash and sanitize before touching. Use gloves and other PPE to clean known contaminated surfaces and fabrics.
  9. Wear a mask if you think you are infected: to avoid spreading respiratory droplets, wear a mask if you think you think you might be infected with monkeypox.
  10. Isolate if you are showing symptoms: remain isolated and contact your healthcare provider if you are showing symptoms of infection. Staying away from other people will keep the virus from spreading.

As we battle two viruses at the same time, it is worth noting that while Monkeypox and COVID-19 have very little in common, both are viruses whose spread can be prevented through similar actions. If we practice proper personal and surface hygiene, continue to keep social distance, and avoid contact with infected persons we can help slow the spread of monkeypox (and COVID-19).

To prevent infection from monkeypox you can also get vaccinated.

What About the Vaccines?

There is a vaccine for monkeypox. It is a two-shot procedure and takes 14 days. Supplies, however, are currently limited. The CDC recommends that only the following people get vaccinated at this time:

  • Those identified by public health officials as contacts of someone with monkeypox (you would know if you were one of these people).
  • Those who have had sex in the last 2 weeks with someone diagnosed with monkeypox.
  • Those sexually active during the past 2 weeks in a monkeypox infected part of the country.
  • Lab workers who work with and around orthopoxviruses.
  • Some additional healthcare and public health workers (you would know if you were one of these people).

On August 8th, the FDA expanded vaccination authorization. This will increase vaccine supply and allow at-risk children access to the vaccines.

BOTTOM LINE

Living through two simultaneous virus outbreaks can be draining. Just as many of us were getting a handle on COVID-19, monkeypox shows up to— well—throw a monkey wrench into things.

Social distancing and hand washing – practices we should all be quite familiar with by now – along with proper sanitization, avoiding contact with infected persons, and staying well informed can help prevent the spread of monkeypox. If you think you might be infected, wear a mask, isolate, and contact your healthcare provider.

The scientific community is working overtime to keep us as safe as possible. Our job is to remain calm, cautious, vigilant, and to trust the science. When in doubt, stick with official sources like Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for answers to your outbreak-related questions.

You can also stay tuned right here to Epitome and we will guide you toward the facts and toward safety.



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