With the US Department of Health and Human Services declaring the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency as the number of cases continues to rise, the most important thing you can do is know your risk level. Monkeypox is still rare and most people are at low risk.
But if you are in a city where monkeypox is common, and in a community where it is common, you are at greater risk at this current stage of the outbreak.
The monkeypox outbreak first began among men who have sex with men, a group that includes people considered gay, bisexual, transgender, and non-binary. The group remains at the highest risk. So far, the bulk of cases have been reported in large cities such as New York and Los Angeles.
As the outbreak continues, the virus may soon begin to spread further and begin to affect different populations.
The experts interviewed by ABC News provided the latest news on how to stay safe. Besides these suggestions, experts emphasized that at this time, the risk of transmission to the general population is low. But they agreed that everyone should be aware of the current outbreak and take steps to reduce risks.
Attention: Avoid skin or skin contact with those who may be infected with the virus
Direct, close skin-to-skin contact “is the main route of transmission, which can occur in a number of ways. It can occur only by daily contact with a case of monkeypox, close to through intimate contact or during sexual intercourse.
Because monkeypox can spread during intimate sexual intercourse, Richard Silvera, MD, professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said it’s important to be “upright and upfront with your intimate partners” about potential risks and past exposures.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says monkeypox is contagious from the onset of symptoms until the rash has healed. Two to four weeks is the typical duration of the disease.
“You can have a rash on multiple areas of the body, and that rash can look like many things. It can look like a pimple, and it can look like a small bump that looks like folliculitis when it becomes infected with a hair follicle,” said Dr. Robert Bates, M.D. Infectious Diseases at NYU Langone Health, “It can be painless or painful.”
Do not share: Avoid sharing towels, clothing and bed linen
The virus can spread through contaminated objects including “clothing, bed sheets, towels, and other porous materials,” says Dr. Ann Rimoen, professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
While this type of transfer isn’t nearly as common as skin contact, it’s something to keep in mind when sharing items with others.
“This virus can live on those surfaces for a while and then spread to another person,” Remoen said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends avoiding utensils or cups used by someone with monkeypox.
General Hygiene: Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
“Hand hygiene is the most important thing, not just for monkeypox but for any infectious disease,” says ABC News’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton.
Since hands are the vector between everything we touch and where germs can enter – eyes, nose and mouth – hand hygiene is vital to staying healthy. Practices that have worked for the past two years, still work.
“Wearing a mask and washing hands… If it works for COVID, it will also work for monkeypox,” says Silvera.
Cover-up: It may be safer to be fully clothed, especially when facing large crowds
To reduce the possibility of skin-to-skin contact with someone who may have the virus, wear clothing that covers your body.
The CDC says that “festivals, events, and concerts in which attendees are fully dressed and are unlikely to share physical contact are safer” when compared to similar events with minimal clothing and close contact.
“These are not events where transmission is likely to occur, but of course, if you feel you are in a high-risk category, you may want to exercise a little more caution,” he says. Dr. John Brownstein, ABC News contributor and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Disinfection: Wipe clean surfaces that may be contaminated
According to the CDC, monkeypox is a heart virus, which is sensitive to many disinfectants. They recommend disinfecting areas where someone with monkeypox spends time, and things they may have used.
“At the same time, it’s not as if people are going to need to go back to the old COVID days where there was so much confusion and eliminating groceries and sterilizing household items where there is virtually no chance of any danger,” Brownstein says.
For those specifically in high-traffic areas, or encountering surfaces or objects used by someone with monkeypox, disinfection may provide additional protection.
The CDC recommends using an EPA-registered disinfectant.
If you qualify, get vaccinated: contact your local health department
The CDC currently recommends that the vaccines be given to those at risk of developing monkeypox. This includes those who have been exposed to monkeypox as well as people who are aware that one of their sexual partners has been diagnosed in the past two weeks or people who have had multiple sexual partners in the past two weeks living in an area known as monkeypox. People should keep their local health department up to date to determine eligibility requirements.
“If we have a lot [vaccine] With supply, we might consider vaccinating groups that have very dense social networks, such as university colleges, students, prisons, and living situations that would potentially allow for multiple contacts where there could be risks,” Brownstein says.
Stay informed: watch out for new information as it comes in
“We’re all going to have to put it together and come up with this as we go along,” Silvera said.
Even researchers and clinicians are learning more every day.
“I studied [monkeypox] As an infectious disease doctor, but only in May did I start seeing and interacting with monkeypox patients. “This has been a very steep learning curve for me,” Bates said.
Before now, the number of monkeypox cases was relatively low. We will continue to learn more about the virus over time and expert guidance will evolve as a result. But experts stress that keeping calm is important.
“This is very different from the Corona virus in many ways, and therefore I think that people should be aware, worried, but at the same time they should not really panic,” Al-Sadr said.
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