Not as Scary as It Seems
By Dr. Michael Rousse
There have been a lot of questions about Monkeypox recently, especially with the World Health Organization declaring a global health emergency, and both New York and California declaring a state of emergency. One would be reasonable to think we are all in some impending trouble here. We are not.
Please try not to be overly concerned. This is NOT at all like our recent COVID-19 pandemic. Monkeypox is not spread by airborne droplets, is not nearly as contagious as COVID-19, and is not considered life-threatening.
As of August 3, 2022, there have been 6326 confirmed cases of Monkeypox in the US. More than 340,000 doses of vaccine have been given in the US. The vaccine supply is quite limited and is being distributed to states according to the number of cases experienced. Most people do not need to get vaccinated.
In a recent study in the New England Journal looking at 528 infections, 98% of these infections were in gay or bisexual men – it is important to remember that this virus is spread by contact, and is therefore a virus that can effect anyone. For example, we may be getting more reporting from the LGBTQ+ community because that community may be more open about reporting and seeking help for signs and symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of Monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches and backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, respiratory symptoms, and a rash. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.
Monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including direct contact with Monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with Monkeypox. It can also be spread through touching objects and fabrics such as clothing or bedding, as well as surfaces that have been used by someone with Monkeypox. Contact with respiratory secretions can also spread the virus.
Appropriate precautions include avoiding close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like Monkeypox. Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with Monkeypox has used. Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with Monkeypox and do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with Monkeypox. It is important to wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom
Right now there is not a definitive treatment. Some antivirals used for smallpox may shorten the duration of the illness. These “off-label” uses are reserved for immune compromised individuals primarily. Treatments at this time are focused on symptom management and control of spread.
If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to Monkeypox, please contact you primary care provider. If you are looking for more information, visit healthvermont.gov/hMPXV.
In Good Health,