On Thursday, August 4, President Joe Biden declared monkeypox a national health emergency, the New York Times reported. “The designation will free up emergency funds and remove some bureaucratic hurdles, but many experts fear containment may no longer be possible.”
The news comes a week after New York State declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency, followed by California and Illinois. At press time, the CDC has reported more than 7,000 confirmed cases nationwide; the outbreak was first reported in May.
So should you be worried about monkey pox? Katie Passaretti, MD, chief epidemiologist and immunologist at Atrium Health, says Charm that just because monkeypox isn’t as contagious or severe as COVID-19 doesn’t mean we should ignore it.
Dr Passaretti says the misconception that monkeypox is only a danger to homosexuals is also dangerous. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told CNBC that men who have sex with men who are HIV-positive or who are currently taking PREP to reduce the likelihood of contracting HIV “face the greatest health risk.” related to monkeypox”. However, anyone can get monkeypox and ultimately education is most important in reducing the risk of infection.
“It is essential to act now to quickly identify cases, prevent further spread and vaccinate those most at risk,” says Dr Passaretti.
Here’s what you need to know about monkeypox and how to stay safe.
What is monkey pox?
Simply put, monkeypox is a virus from the same family as smallpox. Symptoms of the disease are milder, however, and thankfully not nearly as deadly, according to the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.
In recent weeks, cases have increased in the United States, bringing the total to more than 7,000 cases as of August 4.
Does monkeypox come from monkeys?
No. In fact, several health officials have urged the WHO to reconsider the name of the virus, NPR reports. While it’s unclear whether monkeypox originated in primates, it has been seen in monkeys in West Africa, the same place where the majority of cases were diagnosed before the current outbreak in the United States. By NPR, the WHO initially listened to concerns about the name but has yet to officially change it. In the meantime, some medical professionals choose to refer to monkeypox as “MPV” instead.
While disease names can be changed by the WHO, the names of the viruses themselves are determined by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The organization said NPR that the term “monkey” will likely continue to be part of a revamped name, should they choose one.
For the purposes of this article, Charm will use “monkeypox” in accordance with the WHO standard.
How is monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox is spread through close contact, either through bodily fluids or by touching infected materials like clothing and bedding. Unlike COVID-19, monkeypox is not airborne, so the CDC does not suggest wearing masks to stop the spread unless you have tested positive for the virus. The jury is still out on whether or not it spreads in asymptomatic people, as the CDC is still gathering information.
How contagious is monkeypox compared to COVID-19?
Good news: Monkeypox is nowhere near as contagious as COVID-19 or the common flu, says Dr. Passaretti. She adds that the infection often requires close and prolonged contact with typical monkeypox skin lesions, oral secretions (in other words, saliva), and contaminated materials like clothing or bedding. Given these conditions, she said, the majority of transmissions occur among people who live in the same household or engage in sexual activity.
What symptoms should I watch out for?
One of the most common symptoms associated with the current outbreak of monkeypox is large lesions and pus-filled rashes on the mouth, neck, and genitals. Some symptoms, Dr. Passaretti says, can fly under the radar, including chills, swollen lymph nodes, fever and feeling “shabby” before the rashes start. According to the WHO, the virus lasts two to four weeks. It is important to be on the lookout for early signs and self-isolate until you are tested in order to stop the spread.
What about the monkeypox vaccine?
We don’t have to wait months for a vaccine to go through clinical trials: Doctors already have a pretty decent one. The primary vaccine used in the current monkeypox outbreak for prevention and post-exposure prophylaxis is the Jynneos vaccine, given in two doses, Dr. Passaretti said. It is composed of a live vaccinia virus, which is a milder distant relative of smallpox and monkeypox, which cannot replicate in human cells. There aren’t many side effects from the vaccine, except for redness and swelling at the injection site, according to NYC Health.
What if I had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine?
It does not matter. Chickenpox immunity does not protect you from monkeypox, nor does any combined vaccine against shingles or chickenpox. According to Dr. Passaretti: “Some people who have already been vaccinated against smallpox, because they were born in a country or at a time when smallpox vaccines were more regularly administered, may benefit from some protection, but it is thought the level of protection decreases” as time passes.
Who is eligible for the vaccine?
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the 1.7 million gay and bisexual men who are HIV-positive or taking PREP are “the population we’ve focused on most in terms of vaccination,” according to CNBC. .