News of a monkeypox outbreak may sound scary, but there’s no need for most people to take special steps to avoid getting the viral illness, an infectious disease expert says.
Normal precautions recommended to prevent other diseases are enough, according to Jennifer Hsu, M.D., infectious disease specialist at Sanford Health.
Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that turns into pus-filled blisters, or lesions.
Not everyone infected with the virus develops all of these symptoms.
“Monkeypox is generally spread through close contact — skin-to-skin contact primarily, particularly when folks who have monkeypox have the active rash,” Dr. Hsu said. “It can be spread in other ways through respiratory secretions. But again, it requires really close and prolonged contact.”
The virus variant that is circulating is from West Africa, and is milder than a Central African variant. Its infection fatality rate is estimated at 1% and even lower in the United States, where patients are more likely to have been healthy, young people.
As of July 20, the United States had 2,323 confirmed cases of monkeypox, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Hsu said early reports of this monkeypox outbreak happened to be among men who have sex with men. But that simply means sexual transmission is a risk because it’s close contact.
“It has nothing to do with sexual orientation,” she said. “And so I want to be extra clear that we are not stigmatizing any one particular population who’s at risk for this. It really, again, is that very close, household, skin-to-skin, intimate contact that transmits this. And so I would say anybody is at risk.”
Typical monkeypox treatment is for symptoms, Dr. Hsu said — controlling people’s fevers, treating dehydration with IV fluids, and other supportive measures.
“If patients have more severe disease, there are antiviral medicines that have been used, and we would evaluate the need for that specific treatment just on a case-by-case basis, depending on someone’s specific other health issues,” she said.
The smallpox vaccine gives some protection against monkeypox, according to the World Health Organization. However, smallpox was eliminated worldwide in 1980, and people younger than 40 or 50 (depending on the country they live in) would not have received the smallpox vaccine.
Newer vaccines have been developed that address monkeypox, but they are not widely available yet.
You can prevent spreading monkeypox infection by avoiding close contact with people who are infected. Take these prevention measures recommended by the CDC:
If you are sick with monkeypox:
“I think as we talk about with a lot of infections, whether we’re talking about influenza or COVID-19, the biggest thing is if you’re noticing symptoms is to see your physician or your health care provider to review,” said Dr. Hsu. “I wouldn’t say it’s anything to fear at this point, but I think it’s worth being vigilant. And as a community member, just being vigilant about our own health protects the people around us.”
The World Health Organization has more on monkeypox.
Posted In Health Information, Healthy Living, News
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