8 Common Monkeypox Questions, Answers

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According to a national survey, 1 in 5 Americans are worried about contracting monkeypox. Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
  • A new survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center has shown that around 20% of people are worried about contracting monkeypox.
  • The monkeypox virus is not new and there is a vaccine. But many Americans aren’t sure or don’t believe a vaccine exists.
  • Monkeypox is a serious health problem, but it’s usually not fatal. Still, experts say knowledge, caution and vaccination, when appropriate, are important.

News of a virus known as monkeypox began making headlines in the United States in May when the World Health Organization (WHO) learned of a confirmed case in a person from Britain who had returned from a trip to Nigeria.

On May 18, the first US case was confirmed in a man from Massachusetts.

More than two months later, two states – New York and California – declared states of emergency over the monkeypox outbreak.

The terminology may sound too familiar – COVID-19 is still considered a global pandemic. Now, there’s another health issue to worry about, and 1 in 5 Americans are concerned about contracting monkeypox, according to a nationwide survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

This is a lower rate than people who fear contracting COVID (1 in 3), although 48% do not know which of the two viruses is more contagious.

Annenberg found another problem with monkeypox information: 66% are unsure or don’t believe a monkeypox vaccine exists.

Additionally, misinformation and misinformation about monkeypox spreads faster than the virus.

To help raise awareness and dispel misconceptions, we asked health experts to answer common questions most people have about monkeypox and how best to protect themselves. Here’s what they had to say.

“Monkeypox is a viral infection from the same family as the smallpox virus,” says Dr. Thomas Yadegar, medical director of the intensive care unit at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center. “It’s a self-limiting disease, which means that over time the infection should resolve on its own.”

Although people in the United States are just discovering monkeypox, it is not a new virus.

“The monkeypox virus was first discovered in monkeys in 1958 and then in humans in the early 1970s,” says Rachel Cox, DNP, FNP-BC, assistant professor at the School of Nursing from the MGH’s Health Professions Institute. “Although monkeypox and smallpox have similar symptoms, monkeypox is generally milder and much less likely to cause death.”

Cox says symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • eruption
  • fever
  • chills
  • aches
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • respiratory symptoms, such as sore throat, cough, and nasal congestion
  • swollen lymph nodes

Cox further says that the rash can appear on:

  • Face
  • genitals
  • stuffy
  • hands
  • feet
  • chest
  • anus

“The rash often begins as flat lesions that lift up, similar to blisters or pimples, and then fill with fluid and pus,” Cox says. As long as the rash is present, the skin can be very tender and painful. “The blisters crust or become crusty and then fall off, potentially leaving scars on the skin.”

Currently, most cases of monkeypox involve men having sex with other men. Still, Dr. Michael Chang, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann in Houston, points out that no one is immune to monkeypox infection. He doesn’t care about your sexual orientation, age, or health.

“Monkey pox can spread to anyone – children and adults, healthy or immunocompromised,” says Chang.

Chang says the primary mode of transmission is skin-to-skin contact. This contact may include:

  • direct contact with rashes, scabs, or bodily fluids, including respiratory secretions from someone with monkeypox
  • close or direct contact, usually defined as prolonged sexual activity, hugging, kissing, or face-to-face contact
  • touching unwashed objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox, although this mode is not as common

Chang adds that a pregnant person can transmit the virus to their fetus through the placenta.

“In the past, most cases of monkeypox were actually in children after contact with infected animals, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with the current outbreak,” Chang adds. “An outbreak in the United States in 2003 was attributed to infected prairie dogs.”

Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection. But Erica Susky, a Toronto-based infection control practitioner, says individuals are mislabeling it as such.

“The misconception is that it’s a sexually transmitted infection, but close contact of a non-sexual nature can also be a source of transmission,” says Susky. “For example, close skin-to-skin contact, hugs, kisses and close face-to-face contact. Not all of these contacts may be sexual in nature, although sexual contact is also an opportunity for viral transmission.

Although monkeypox can be transmitted sexually, it is not the primary mode – skin-to-skin contact is – which is why it is not considered an STI.

“This type of monkeypox is rarely fatal,” says Dr. Douglas Chiriboga of Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center. “The type of monkeypox we are dealing with now is the West African type.”

But Chiriboga and others warn that certain populations are at greater risk of death.

“It can be [deadly] for unvaccinated children and immunocompromised populations,” says Chang.

Cox adds that previous outbreaks have seen 1-10% of the population die.

“Researchers are now learning more about how to treat the disease and prevent serious complications,” Cox said.

There is currently no known cure for monkeypox, notes Dr. Jay Varma, Kroll’s chief medical adviser, member of the Kroll Institute and director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response.

However, there are some treatments. Varma explains that physicians can obtain Tecovimat (trademark TPOXX) from the CDC.

“During this outbreak, some patients who received this drug reported that it helped clear their rash faster and reduced their pain significantly,” says Varma.

Cox reiterated that monkeypox is a self-limiting disease.

“Monkeypox usually goes away on its own after two to four weeks,” says Cox. “However, children and people with certain medical conditions can become more seriously ill.”

Varma says people are given one of two available smallpox vaccines, which have been shown to be effective against monkeypox:

  • ACAM2000, the original smallpox vaccine
  • JYNNEOS, a new vaccine

The vaccine is estimated to be about 85% effective in preventing monkeypox, but research is currently limited.

“Researchers are currently conducting patient studies during this outbreak to provide a more accurate estimate of real-life vaccine protection,” Varma says.

The CDC recommends vaccination for people who:

  • have been exposed to monkeypox in the last 4-14 days
  • work in certain occupations, such as laboratory workers who directly handle orthopoxvirus-carrying animals that pose a risk of infection to humans

If monkeypox is rarely fatal, why do states declare emergencies? Why the WHO declares global health emergencya rare honor?

“In most patients, monkeypox causes extreme pain and discomfort for several weeks in many parts of the body,” says Varma. “In some situations, the pain may be so severe that it requires hospitalization, the rash may leave permanent scars on the skin or become infected with bacteria, and/or the disease may damage the brain, eyes and muscles. lungs.”

Varma also notes that for other viruses, including COVID-19, healthcare providers and scientists didn’t discover other effects until later, such as the long COVID-19.

It also poses a more serious risk to vulnerable populations, such as children and immunocompromised people, Susky points out.

People with monkeypox are contagious until the rash is completely gone, Varma notes.

“This means that a blister has scabbed over, the scab has formed and fallen off, and new skin is now covering the area where the blister and scab used to be,” he says. .

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