Monkeypox 2022: everything you need to know

In May, public health officials began detecting cases of monkeypox all over the world, including places where the disease doesn’t usually spread. In addition to spreading in central and western Africa, where the disease historically originated, outbreaks have spread to Europe, the United States, South America and other parts of the planet.

The World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency of international concern over the spread of the disease around the world, and the Biden administration on Thursday declared a public health emergency for the monkeypox outbreak in the United States. , two months after cases of the disease began to appear in the country. .

Here’s what you need to know about monkeypox.

What is monkey pox?

Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus. It is a virus similar to the one that causes smallpox. The first human case was identified in 1970, and since then it has mainly caused epidemics in a handful of countries in Africa.

Should monkeys be blamed for monkeypox?

Leave the monkeys alone. Monkeypox gets its name from the fact that it was first identified in a research monkey in 1958. But this virus likes to hang around with lots of small, furry creatures, especially rodents. One of the last outbreaks in the United States occurred in 2003 when some domestic prairie dogs shared space with infected West African mammals.

Infected animals can transmit monkeypox to humans, but there have not yet been confirmed cases of people passing it to animals, according to the CDC. That being said, they warn that it is possible for an infected person to transmit monkeypox to an animal by “petting, cuddling, hugging, kissing, licking, sharing sleeping areas and sharing food”.

TL: DR: Don’t lick your chinchilla while you have monkeypox.

Where is monkeypox spread?

Cases of monkeypox are popping up all over the world. Currently, cases are mostly clustered in men who have sex with men, but anyone can catch the virus.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

The most telltale signs of monkeypox are blister-like lesions and pimples on the body. In the past, monkeypox cases typically included lesions all over the body. During this outbreak, however, many patients only have a few blisters on one part of the body, such as the genital area. Patients also have fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, and other flu-like symptoms.

The disease is usually not fatal, but it can be very painful. It usually lasts two to four weeks.

I get flashbacks – is this COVID-19 again?

No, it’s not COVID-19 again. It is not a new virus. Scientists have known about monkeypox for decades, although it hasn’t appeared in so many countries before. There are already treatments and vaccines that work against it. Even though most people in the United States had never heard of monkeypox before, we are not starting from scratch like we did with the coronavirus.

Is this monkeypox outbreak a pandemic?

No. Monkeypox, although spreading worldwide, is still considered an epidemic. There aren’t really any official criteria for a pandemic, but the World Health Organization ultimately decides whether an outbreak qualifies, and that hasn’t happened yet. The last pandemic to be declared was COVID-19 in March 2020, which is around yesterday or eight decades ago, depending on how your perception of time has warped over the past two years.

Monkeypox now has the distinction of being a public health emergency, both in the United States and around the world. Emergency declarations help free up resources for countries and organizations to take more public health action during an outbreak.

Monkey pox vaccine, August 2022, Star Tribune photo

Photo by David Joles/Star Tribune via Getty Images

How do I get tested for monkeypox?

Currently, monkeypox testing is still limited in the United States. People can get tested by doctors or emergency care providers. The tests require swabbing a monkeypox lesion and sending it to a lab for testing. However, some people with symptoms and rashes say they are still struggling to access tests – many doctors are still unaware of the condition.

Are there home tests?

There are no home tests for monkeypox. Most tests still require healthcare providers to swab a monkeypox lesion, and there’s no way for someone to do that on their own at this point. Some groups are working to develop tests that use saliva.

Should I take a monkeypox vaccine?

The good news is that there is already an FDA-approved vaccine to prevent monkeypox: Jynneos. The bad news is that it is currently in short supply in the United States. State and local health departments make it available to people with known exposure to monkeypox, because getting vaccinated after exposure can stop the virus from multiplying. Public health officials are also offering the vaccine to groups where the virus primarily spreads: men who have sex with men and people who have had multiple recent sexual partners in areas where the disease is spreading.

How is monkeypox transmitted?

Monkeypox is mainly spread through person-to-person contact – when a person has close physical contact with someone infected with the virus. Right now it seems to be spread primarily through sexual contact, which is one of the reasons we see infections clustered in sexual networks. It might be possible to catch monkeypox by touching objects or fabrics (like sheets) that have been in contact with monkeypox lesions. But it’s probably not a huge method of transmission, and basic hygiene measures (wiping surfaces, washing hands) should reduce the risk.

Monkeypox virus might be able to spread when infected people exhale and others nearby breathe that exhale, but it is not as contagious this way as COVID-19. We don’t see cases of people catching the virus just by briefly being in the same room as someone with monkeypox – which is what we do with COVID-19.

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A monkey pox vaccination site in Brooklyn, New York.
Photo by Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty Images

Why is monkeypox spreading so quickly all of a sudden?

Researchers are still trying to figure out why monkeypox started to spread outside of where it’s usually found. This could be due to the virus’s new features that let it travel undetected, but that’s an open question.

Should I be worried about catching monkeypox on the subway?

Monkeypox is mainly spread through close physical contact, so the subway shouldn’t be a major risk – just wear a mask (masks are always required on the NYC subway) and wash your hands.

Can monkeypox film a person with a skin condition in public?

What? No. It’s odious. Do not do that.

Where can I get the latest information on monkeypox?

The CDC’s monkeypox page is here. This is where you can find updated case counts, more information on signs and symptoms, and information on prevention and treatment.

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