What is monkeypox and how can you stay safe as it spreads?


The Biden administration has declared the monkeypox outbreak in the US a public health emergency.

“We are ready to take our response to the next level in tackling this virus, and we urge every American to take this virus seriously and take responsibility for helping us tackle this virus,” Secretary Xavier Becerra of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. said.

Monkeypox is a smallpox virus, related to smallpox and cowpox. It generally causes pimple- or blister-like lesions and flu-like symptoms such as fever, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The lesions usually focus on the arms and legs, but in this outbreak they are more common on the genital and perianal area.

“Classically, like many other viral illnesses, it presents with a so-called viral prodrome, and symptoms such as fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue and muscle aches are common. Within five days of the onset of the prodrome, patients develop a rash that may look like pimples or blisters,” said Dr. Jason Zucker, an infectious disease specialist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Monkeypox spreads through close contact, according to the CDC. That includes direct physical contact with lesions, as well as “respiratory secretions” shared by face-to-face interaction and touching objects contaminated with monkeypox lesions or fluids. The virus can also pass through the placenta to a fetus.

Many of the cases in the outbreak appear to be related to sexual contact, often during sex. The CDC says research is ongoing into whether monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids, or whether the virus can spread asymptomatically.

Anyone who has had contact with someone with a monkeypox-like rash, or who has been in contact with someone with a probable or confirmed case of monkeypox, is at high risk of infection.

However, a large number of cases of this outbreak have been in men who have sex with men, including gay and bisexual men, and public health officials are focusing their prevention efforts on this group. The virus is not unique to this community, but the nature of its spread through close contact has resulted in a disproportionate impact.

“The vast majority of those who have been diagnosed with human monkeypox virus to date are self-identifying men who have sex with men,” Zucker said.

“This is probably due to shared sexual networks. So what we see is that they see it first and experience most cases. Like other diseases, there is no reason why it cannot spread to other communities through sexual or other close contact,” he said.

According to the CDC, those at higher risk during this outbreak are those who had “skin-to-skin contact with someone in a social network who was experiencing monkeypox activity,” including men who have sex with men who meet partners online, through an app, or at a social event.

People with weakened immune systems such as HIV and eczema, and children under the age of 8 may also be at higher risk for serious illness if they are infected, the CDC said.

If you notice a new rash or other monkey pox symptoms, avoid close contact with other people until you’ve seen a doctor and been tested.

“If you see a healthcare provider, wear a mask and remind them that the virus is circulating in the area,” the CDC says.

If you’re diagnosed with monkey pox, the agency recommends isolation at home and away from family members until the rash or lesions clear up.

According to the CDC, there is no approved treatment specifically for monkeypox. But because it is genetically similar to smallpox, doctors can use similar treatments, such as antiviral drugs.

The CDC is making doses of tecovirimat, an antiviral drug also known as Tpoxx, available to patients with monkeypox who are at risk for serious illness. These can be people whose infection has progressed to the severe stage and people with a weakened immune system. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has also announced a study of Tpoxx as a treatment for monkeypox.

According to the World Health Organization, monkeypox treatment should also include efforts to manage symptoms and complications.

There are two vaccines available in the US to prevent monkey pox, but not everyone is eligible to get one.

The US has a “large stock” of the smallpox vaccine ACAM2000, which can also be used to prevent monkeypox. However, according to the CDC, it should not be used in people with certain health conditions.

“We have 100 million doses of ACAM2000,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in late June, but its side effects mean that “in my mind as a public health person it wouldn’t be worth giving it.” widely distributed by the general population.”

Another vaccine, Jynneos, is specifically for monkey pox, but is scarce. Federal stock is distributed among municipalities based on the number of cases and the population at risk in a particular area.

More than 600,000 doses of Jynneos have been distributed from the Strategic National Stockpile, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and another 150,000 doses are expected in September. The CDC estimates that at least 1.5 million people in the US are eligible for monkey pox vaccination.

The federal government has proposed changing the way vaccines are physically administered, which could mean further expanding the current supply.

Jynneos is a two-dose vaccine, with a four-week interval between doses. But in light of the shortages, some experts have argued for a single-dose regimen until the supply improves.

Monkeypox vaccination can be used as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and outbreak response PEP (PEP++), according to the CDC.

PrEP refers to vaccinations given to members of at-risk communities, such as lab or health professionals, before they can come into contact with the virus.

PEP means vaccinating people after a known exposure to prevent disease or relieve symptoms. For prevention, the CDC recommends that the vaccine be given up to four days after exposure. PEP given four to 14 days after exposure can lead to milder illness.

PEP++ is the CDC approach for people with unconfirmed exposure to the virus, but with risk factors that make them more likely to get the virus.

“Combined with self-isolation and other prevention measures when symptoms first appear, PEP++ may help slow the spread of the disease in areas with high rates of monkeypox,” the CDC says.

The demand for monkeypox vaccines is high, but due to supply shortages and eligibility restrictions, it can be difficult to find at the moment.

Eligibility for the vaccines remains somewhat strict.

People who have known, confirmed contacts of people with monkey pox are eligible for vaccination. Also eligible are suspected contacts who had a sex partner diagnosed with monkeypox in the past 14 days, those who had multiple sex partners in the past 14 days in an area where monkeypox spreads, and those whose job could expose them to monkeypox, according to the CDA.

If you think you meet any of these criteria and would like to know if you qualify, talk to your doctor or your local health authority.

The CDC recommends avoiding close contact or shared objects with anyone with monkey pox. Regular hand washing is also recommended.

For social gatherings, including parties, raves, clubs and festivals, the CDC says to stick to more dressy events, where skin-to-skin contact is less common.

Avoid sex or close physical intimacy if an affected person has monkey pox. The CDC specifically recommends avoiding rashes on a partner’s body. To prevent the spread of monkeypox while you are sexually active, keeping a distance of 6 feet (1.8 m), wearing clothes during sex, and using condoms and/or gloves can reduce the risk of exposure.

“Condoms alone cannot prevent all monkeypox exposure, however, because the rash can appear on other parts of the body,” the CDC says.

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