The number of monkeypox cases in non-endemic countries continues to rise, but health authorities say the outbreak is manageable and poses a low risk to the general public.
Since this week, more than 1,300 cases of monkeypox have been detected in countries where the virus is not endemic. In the United States, 45 cases have been confirmed so far, just two fewer cases than were detected in the 2003 outbreak.
The White House is currently ramping up doses of vaccines believed to be effective against monkeypox virus while expanding testing capacity for orthopoxvirus, the family of viruses to which monkeypox belongs.
Monkeypox virus has a very low mortality rate and no deaths have been reported in non-endemic countries so far this year. Infections usually last between two and four weeks and an individual is considered no longer contagious once the characteristic lesions have completely healed.
Monkeypox is transmitted primarily through prolonged skin-to-skin contact, although it can sometimes be spread through respiratory droplets if sores develop in an infected person’s mouth or throat.
With the onset of summer, more people will spend time outdoors in large crowds. Health experts have so far said people shouldn’t change their plans because of monkeypox, but have advised some caution.
Here are some simple ways to stay safe and limit the spread of monkeypox amid the current outbreak.
Check yourself and others for symptoms
As many have likely become accustomed to doing during the COVID-19 pandemic, assess yourself for monkeypox symptoms before attending an event or meeting anyone else.
Symptoms tend to be flu-like and include fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and chills.
However, health officials noted that some cases appeared to have mild or no symptoms soon after being infected.
The most noticeable sign of monkeypox is the characteristic rash that forms on various parts of the body and face. The lesions go through several stages before eventually forming scabs. The scabs will eventually fall off and the skin will heal, at which point a person is considered non-infectious.
Most cases have so far been identified in men who have sex with men, and health officials have noted that many infected people have rashes around their groin or anus. As the anal area is difficult to see on your own, use mirrors, cameras, or an understanding friend if you think you have the virus but have not seen lesions on the body parts you see.
Before you start having sex, you should also perform a visual examination of your future partner’s skin for lesions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released photos of what monkeypox lesions may look like.
Wash your hands, do your laundry
Standard cleaning and sanitation methods are still considered effective in limiting the spread of monkeypox.
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap or wash your hands after going out in public. Be sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, under your fingernails and between your fingers. The CDC has released a handwashing video that can be seen here.
Another common route of transmission for monkeypox is through an infected person’s clothing or bedding. If you are recovering from a monkeypox infection or think you might be infected, washing your linens and clothes with laundry detergent in a standard washing machine with warm water should get rid of the virus.
Avoid high risk situations
The CDC considers festivals and events where attendees are fully clothed to be safer in terms of transmission of monkeypox. However, people should also be aware of other forms of contact like kissing.
Enclosed spaces where little or no clothing is worn — such as saunas or raves — pose a higher risk of transmission. The first outbreak of monkeypox in Europe has been speculatively linked to raves that took place in several countries.
Although rare, monkeypox can be spread through respiratory droplets, so events where attendees are tightly packed in an enclosed space should be avoided.
Talk to a healthcare provider about getting tested
US health officials said they were working to expand testing capacity for orthopoxvirus. If you think you have had close contact with someone who tested positive for monkeypox, contact a healthcare professional to get tested for orthopoxvirus.
According to Raj Panjabi, White House senior director for global health security and biodefense, public health labs currently have the capacity to perform more than a thousand tests per day.
“We are working to make testing in public health labs more convenient and to expand testing beyond public health labs through business partners. But testing can only happen when people with symptoms seek care,” Panjabi said during a press briefing on Friday.
Because monkeypox is very rarely seen in the United States, some health care providers may be unfamiliar with the signs of the virus, so it’s important that you recognize potential symptoms and specifically request testing for the virus. monkeypox if you think you’ve caught it. .
Smallpox vaccines like Jynneos and ACAM2000 are believed to be effective against monkeypox and have already been mobilized in states where infections have been identified. Smallpox drugs like brincidofovir and tecovirimat can also be used to treat monkeypox, with recent studies supporting their potential effectiveness against the virus.
Most people recover from an infection in two to four weeks.
Consider wearing a condom if you catch the virus
Monkeypox is spread through contact with an infected individual’s body fluid. However, health officials do not know if the virus can be spread through vaginal secretions and semen.
Although this possible route of transmission remains unclear, health authorities in the UK have advised people who recover from monkeypox to wear a condom during sex for up to eight weeks after their infection has cleared.
Any sexual contact, even with a condom, should be avoided if the infection is still ongoing and active lesions are still present on the skin.
Although monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection, prolonged skin-to-skin contact, such as during sex, can lead to infection.
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