Monkeypox: What You Need To Know
The incidence of monkeypox in the United States has rapidly increased over the last 3 months.
As of July 8th, there have been only 500 cases reported to the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) – now that number has swelled to over 7000, with 28 deaths reported. On Thursday, through a Presidential Executive Order, Vice President Joe Biden declared a Public Health Emergency on Monkeypox.
In the face of growing confusion, there is also growing concern about who might be at risk of infection. The outbreak creates a larger issue.
Who can be targeted? Would the risk that someone picks their pocket while they’re on a crowded bus or airplane be comparable to trying on clothes at a thrift store and finding something that you want to buy? From another person’s computer? Are computers in general safer than other objects?
There are lots of myths and misconceptions surrounding these questions. You can’t find accurate information on the topic or guidance.
Copymatic not only demystifies myths surrounding the recent outbreak of measles and rubella, but also provides data on who needs the vaccine in particular.
Question 1: How accurate is it to think of monkeypox as a sexually transmitted disease?
There you go
“The fact that the majority of monkeypox cases are in queer and gay folks and our sexual networks is a big issue,” says Joseph Osmundson, an NYU biologist who identifies as queer. He is helping to lead the effort to stop the outbreak.
Sexual transmission is not the only way for monkeypox, a deadly illness spread through contact with infected droplets or aerosols, to be spread. However, the United States has seen a huge outbreak of monkeypox in recent days from a patient traveling from Africa.
“Focusing on the epidemiological data for the outbreak in Western Europe and the United States, it’s clear that there are fewer cases in kids and individuals who don’t have sex,” Dr. Yin says. “That is because most of the disease is seen in people with networksed with a lot of sexual encounters.”
In a study conducted by Queen Mary University of London, researchers analyzed records from 16 countries from a recent outbreak of monkeypox. Of the 500 cases, 95% were transmitted through sexual contact. Around 70% spread via sexual encounters which suggests that lesions on or around the genitals and anus are probably trackable.
This week, the World Health Organization released data showing that nearly 90% of people were infected with monkeypox because of sexual contact.
Evidence is mounting that monkeypox virus can spread through ejaculation. Scientists from Italy and Spain have found the virus in monkeys’ semen, as well as in samples from infected humans. And this week, a new study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases demonstrates that unsafe sperm can transmit the virus to human cells.
However, in addition to the fact that monkeypox is transmitted during sexual contact, it can also be spread through other routes. Dr. Jay Varma pointed out on Twitter Wednesday.
I hear people worried about getting a rare disease from the air that travels in airplanes, buses, and even handshakes. Some have contacted me to ask about it.
Dr. Susan McLellan explained that the routes of transmission in this outbreak are extremely rare in public settings and even if they do occur, it is most likely happens when you live with an infected person.
“This outbreak probably won’t involve as many cases on the subway as you might think. And in fact, it’s actually unlikely that someone will be infected riding the subway. If monkeypox were easy to get on the subway, this outbreak would have been seen in the population of people who usually catch these things most commonly through close, intimate contact.”
There is limited transmission of norovirus in nonsexual surfaces, such as the latest outbreak where only 0.2% of people caught the virus from contaminated surfaces.
“We haven’t seen this outbreak so we don’t know how many people have gotten it through these combinations, but you need to rub vigorously on someone else or breathe in particles to get infected,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong of the University of California, San Francisco. “It may take hours of repeatedly coming into contact with the virus or touching surfaces contaminated by the virus.”
So, you won’t catch Monkeypox from casual contact with a surface with the virus or from a person who has it. You’ll also not get it by trying on a jacket from the thrift store, brushing against someone with a Monkeypox rash on an overcrowded bus during a festival, or sitting on a seat at the airport where someone with the virus was before.
Even when living with someone who has the monkeypox, your risk of catching the disease is surprisingly low. Given preliminary data on a small number of cases, the chance of spreading monkeypox by contact – which is only about 0.6%, according to Joseph Osmundson.
‘I think that percentage may be a little low and will rise as we get more data,’ says Osmundson. ‘But household transmission rates for this strain in endemic countries [that is, countries where the virus was entrenched] ] is still only around 3%. And we’re talking about sharing a bathroom with someone known to be infected.’
As shown with the COVID and Monkeypox cases, the chances of SARS-CoV-2 spreading within the home is more than 40%, while studies have determined that monkeypox is much less contagious.
“Do we know when a person is most likely to spread the disease?”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention breaks this course down into three possible phases.
The incubation period: This is the point where someone becomes infected, but doesn’t feel sick yet. It might be hard to know if they’re infectious at this point.
Flu-like symptoms: Some of the initial symptoms people experience are a headache and fever. They might experience these symptoms for a brief period as they’re potentially contagious during this phase, the CDC says.
By this stage, lesions on the skin or inside the mouth, nose, eyes or anus; a person is definitely contagious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says so.
For now, if you have any symptoms of monkeypox, your best course of action is to isolate for two to four weeks and stay away from people and pets in the home.
Monkeys would theoretically be able to spread the variola virus in an individual’s body. Symptoms of the virus start to show once or twice within two weeks with monkeypox, while you’d start seeing them develop after a month. The virus would be gone 2-6 weeks later without treatment, including full healing of the rash with formation of a fresh layer of skin. Because close contact is required for its spread, surface areas should also be covered. Masks can help diminish its spread as well as limit your exposure.
Monkeypox is relatively rare so the best way to avoid exposure is by observing proper hygiene practices.
With new reports claiming that the virus is spreading primarily in men who have sex with multiple partners, new studies show that people who have more sexual exposure are much more likely to contract HIV. If you are part of this group, like gay men and transgender individuals, use condoms properly to reduce your risk of contracting HIV.
But, if you can’t afford to get vaccinated, then you still need to protect yourself. According to biologist Joseph Osmundson, right now the supply of vaccines is limited.
“If you are a part of queer sexual networks, you should acknowledge that during the transmission of monkeypox, those sexual networks are at really high risk,” says Dr. Robert Osmundson. “While we still have limited access to vaccines, people need to be aware of what [constitutes] high risk sexual encounters.” About 30% of cases are associated with [gay] saunas and other places where folks meet for sex,” says Dr. Osmundson.
Dr. Herold emphasizes: If you are not connected through sexual relationships and networks, your risk is low right now.
Trends indicate that while the virus is mostly still contained in heterosexual networks, you should still be aware and thoughtful when going to places where you may have a lot of physical touch. Osmundson says that we aren’t yet sure why the virus is not spreading in homosexual networks.
If you have symptoms that match those of monkeypox, such as a fever followed by a rash, you should go see your doctor and ask to be tested. In the past, only men who had sex with men could receive the test for monkeypox. But now, the tests are available to more people so you should contact your doctor to discuss testing for it.