Stigmas are circulating regarding Monkeypox causing people to perceive this viral infection as one which is exclusively spread by gay and bisexual men. The reality is that anyone can get monkeypox and it must be viewed as a public health concern for all. Together, we must reduce fear and emphasize the importance of taking preventative measures to reduce the severity of the spread of Monkeypox.
- What is Monkeypox? Monkeypox is similar to smallpox. It causes similar symptoms, but milder. Although its source remains unknown, rodents and monkeys could carry the disease and infect people. The disease was first discovered in the late fifties in some research lab monkeys – hence the name.
- How Does It Spread? Monkeypox spreads through close contact – often skin-to-skin. You could get it through coming into contact with an infected person (through sexual intimacy, hugging or kissing, face to face contact), or by coming into contact with a contaminated surface, fabric, or object.
- What Are the Symptoms? According to the CDC, the symptoms of Monkeypox include “fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, sore throat, congestion or cough, a rash (near genitals) or in other areas like hands, feet, chest, face or mouth.” The rash is characterized by painful, itchy, blisters. Symptoms usually start three weeks after exposure.
- When Should a Person Be Tested? Anyone who believes they have the disease or have had close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with the disease, should seek testing. Testing can be done by visiting a hospital where specimens can be collected and sent to a laboratory for testing.
- What Sort of Timeline Does the Disease Have? The progression of Monkeypox symptoms usually involves flu-like symptoms, followed by a rash. It can be spread until the rash is completely healed (2-4 weeks). To avoid spreading Monkeypox, refrain from engaging in close contact activities (including sexual intimacy) and wear a mask.
- How is Monkeypox Treated? Unfortunately, there are currently no specific treatments for this viral infection. Antivirals may be helpful for immunocompromised people.
- How Can I Protect Myself and Others? You can protect yourself and others by avoiding skin-contact with people who appear to have a rash. You should also avoid sharing objects or touching surfaces which have been handled by an infected person. As a precaution, wash your hands frequently; also, use hand sanitizer.
- What Vaccines Are Available? There are vaccines available to people who have been exposed to the virus or are most likely to become infected with the disease. This includes anyone who has been identified as a close contact by public health officials, anyone who has had sexual contact with a person who has been diagnosed, or people who have had multiple sexual partners within a region with a known monkeypox outbreak. Lab workers who test for the disease or who handle animals which may be carrying the disease are also eligible for the vaccine at this time.
- According to the Center for Disease Control, there are 7,102 total confirmed cases of monkeypox. The most concentrated areas of the disease include New York (1,708 cases), California (826 cases), Texas (559 cases), Florida (577 cases), Georgia (544 cases), and Illinois (571 cases).
Although Monkeypox is rarely fatal – with a survival rate of over 99% – immunocompromised people should be extra precautions because they are more likely to become seriously injured or die. Additionally, the blister-like rash symptom of the disease could cause permanent scarring. Be sure to follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for important updates and for current information on the tracking of monkeypox.
Jacqui Donaldson is an American writer and teacher. Her work has been published in The Vehicle, Loud Coffee Press, Across the Margin and others. Connect with Jacqui on Instagram and Twitter @Jacquiverse.