As of yesterday, there is one confirmed case of the monkeypox virus and four suspected cases in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox is a rare disease and cousin of smallpox, though it is not as severe. The confirmed case is in Massachusetts, and the four suspected cases are in New York, Florida, and Utah.
Due to a global outbreak of this virus — more than 100 confirmed or suspected cases have been reported in 12 countries — the United States is currently responding to a request for the release of monkeypox vaccine from the nation’s Strategic National Stockpile for high-risk patients, per CNN.
The virus can spread via close intimate contact between people, or even contaminated bedding. Here is what you need to know about what the disease looks like and how you can avoid it.
What is monkeypox?
According to the CDC, the disease has an incubation period of seven to 14 days, and initial symptoms are usually flu-like (fever, chills, fatigue, muscle weakness, swollen lymph nodes).
The most distinctive symptom comes next: a face and body rash, which can appear on the eyes, mouth, hands, feet, and genitals. These “poxes” or lesions are painful and fluid-filled, often surrounded by red circles, and should scab over in a period of two to three weeks.
Are there drugs to treat it?
There are no specific drugs available to combat the virus, but there is a vaccine that is 85 percent effective at preventing its development and keeping symptoms mild. According to the CDC, monkeypox can kill as many as one in 10 people who contract the disease, a number that is based on observations in Africa (where there have been numerous outbreaks through the years).
How can you avoid getting or transmitting it?
Experts say monkeypox spreads via close contact with someone who is infected. It can be contracted from an infected person’s skin, mouth, nose, bodily fluids — or even contaminated clothes or bedding. If you’re looking to err on the side of caution, wash or change your bedding frequently and avoid sharing clothes with anyone for now.
Human-to-human transmission is believed to occur primarily through large respiratory droplets, which typically cannot travel more than a few feet — so extended face-to-face contact is required. Unsurprisingly, the monkeypox outbreak in North America and Europe is now primarily spreading through sex, World Health Organization officials say.
“Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection in the typical sense, but it can be transmitted during sexual and intimate content, as well as with personal contact and shared bedding and clothing,” Dr. John Brooks, the CDC’s chief medical officer of HIV prevention, tells CNN. Brooks is urging doctors to be vigilant in examining their patients for the disease, as it can resemble other STDs.
To prevent infection, the CDC recommends that you:
- Avoid contact with sick people or animals.
- Avoid contact with any materials, such as bedding, that has been in contact with a sick person.
- Isolate from others if you are at risk for infection.
- Practice good hand hygiene after contact with anyone who is potentially infected (e.g. washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer).
- Use personal protective equipment (PPE) if caring for someone infected.
In the coming weeks, if you are sharing linens, clothes, or intimate touches with a partner, exercise extreme caution if either of you has any symptoms.