MONKEYPOX: WHAT TO KNOW

August 30, 2022

MONKEYPOX: WHAT TO KNOW 

Sorting Fact from Fiction 

WHAT IS MONKEYPOX?

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Monkeypox as a public health emergency. While many rumors of the virus are circulating online, it can be difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Here’s where we look to the experts.

While there have been some accusations that Monkeypox is a racist name, and WHO plans to address that, addressing the disease itself is a higher priority. The name originates from the fact that the disease was first identified in the late 1950s in a group of Monkeys. Monkeypox, much like chickenpox, is a transmissible virus stemming from the orthopoxvirus family. Similar to smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980, Monkeypox causes a blister-like rash on the body that can typically last anywhere from two to four weeks.

While Monkeypox has a 99% survival rate, it can be fatal to children under the age of 8 and can cause permanent scarring. Below we discuss signs, symptoms, and effective prevention measures to follow to stay safe.  

SYMPTOMS & TRANSMISSION

According to NPR, which consulted with infectious disease and public health experts, some patients may experience a subtle rash, with some cases presenting only a single lesion, while other cases are more severe. Since individuals may experience varying levels of skin outbreaks, experts suggest watching for other signs and symptoms that are associated with Monkeypox, including: 

  • Rash including, according to the CDC, bumps like pimples and blisters filled with pus, that may be anywhere on the human body externally or inside the mouth.
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Lethargy

With many theories circulating online, it is essential to understand how Monkeypox is transmitted. According to the CDC, Monkeypox can be transmitted through:

  • Direct skin-to-skin contact with an infectious rash or bodily fluids
  • Breathing in respiratory secretions of the viral particle during prolonged contact (much longer than COVID, which is primarily transmitted respiratory excretion and inhalation)
  • Touching objects that have been exposed to the Monkeypox rash or bodily fluids of someone with the virus 
  • Being scratched or bitten by an infected animal

STIGMA VS. WARNING

Since Monkeypox can be transmitted from person to person through various levels of exposure, it is important to destigmatize the viral disease and not repeat the mistakes made with AIDS which was initially portrayed as a disease of gay men. It later became clear it was much broader than that. The CDC states, "Many—though not all—of the reported cases [of Monkeypox] have been among gay and bisexual men.” This may be a function of what has been diagnosed and reported to date.

The CDC emphasizes that anyone can get Monkeypox and that it is a public health concern for all. With that said, we must remain aware of how the disease spreads, remain alert for possible symptoms, and look to factual information rather than sensationalized media that is not science-based. 

PROTECTION / PREVENTION

Where Monkeypox is relatively similar to smallpox and chickenpox, we can take similar actions to prevent and protect ourselves and our loved ones from the virus. Some preventative measures to safeguard against exposure to Monkeypox include:

  • If you think you may be at risk, get vaccinated. According to the CDC, this means any man who is gay, bisexual or has sex with other men OR anyone who has been exposed to someone who has Monkeypox should get vaccinated. The vaccine is a 2-step process.
  • Exercising caution and maintaining personal space in crowded settings 
  • Practice good hygiene and wash your hands regularly 
  • Contain and launder any clothing or items that may have come into contact with the virus
  • Stay up-to-date with your local transmission levels 
  • Remain transparent with your sexual partner and practice caution
  • If you have Monkeypox avoid cuddling with your pet until you are no longer contagious and perhaps ask someone else to take care of your pet until you are fully recovered and your home has been disinfected


According to NPR, “The U.S. uses two types of smallpox vaccines to fight Monkeypox as past data suggest these vaccines could be 85% effective against that virus as well. In the current outbreak, the CDC says there is no available data on the effectiveness of either vaccine.”

The CDC recommends getting vaccinated against smallpox if you are at risk of being exposed to Monkeypox AND haven’t received a smallpox vaccine within the last three to four years or if you have been exposed to Monkeypox. If these criteria do not apply to you, there is no need to get the vaccine. Where the vaccine supply for Monkeypox is limited, and there is no available data on the effectiveness or safety of emerging vaccines, it is important to take other preventive measures, as mentioned above.

 

THE TAKEAWAY 

While emerging infectious diseases can pose a threat, it is vital to look for factual information online. Many news sources tend to sensationalize information, making it hard to distinguish fact from fiction, which can cause unnecessary panic and, in some cases, put marginalized communities at risk for stigmatization. It can also increase the shortage of a vaccine that is in limited supply, making it harder for people who really do need it to access it.

In times of fear and uncertainty, we can all do our best to remain alert, take cautionary measures, and work to prevent contagious outbreaks.  

Take care. Sending you calm & healthy wishes.

‍- Lee (she/her/hers)

SOURCES
NPR: The WHO declares monkeypox as a public health emergency.
NPR: Critics say "monkeypox" is a racist name. But it's not going away anytime soon.
NPR: Monkeypox explained: How to protect yourself and what to watch out for.
CDC: Reducing Stigma in Monkeypox Communication and Community Engagement
CDC: Prevention, Prevent the Spread of Monkeypox

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