Since the beginning of the summer, health authorities have been watching the development of the monkeypox outbreak which has spread through several countries where the disease is not normally reported, such as in the United States.
As of Thursday, August 4, 2022, Health and Human Services Secretary, Xavier Becerra, declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency, in an effort to raise awareness and free up additional funds to combat the spread of the virus in the country.
“We’re prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously and to take responsibility to help us tackle this virus,” Becerra said at a news briefing.
What is it and how does it spread?
The World Health Organization defines this disease as “a viral zoonosis that occurs mainly in tropical forest areas of Central and West Africa and, sporadically, is exported to other regions.”
Monkeypox is spread in several ways. The CDC states that it can be spread to anyone through frequent, close, personal, skin-to-skin contact, including:
- Direct contact with the monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids of a person who has the disease.
- Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
- Contact with respiratory secretions from an infected person.
This direct contact can occur during intimate contact, including:
- Oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse, or contact with the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butt hole) of a person with monkeypox.
- Hugs, massages and kisses.
- Prolonged face-to-face contact.
- Contact with fabrics and objects during sexual intercourse that have been used by someone with monkeypox and that have not been disinfected, such as bedding, towels, fetishes, and sex toys.
Pregnant people can transmit the virus to the fetus through the placenta.
Monkeypox can also be contracted through infected animals, either by a scratch or bite or by preparing or eating meat from an infected animal, or using products derived from an infected animal.
People with monkeypox can transmit it from the time symptoms first appear until the rash has completely healed and a new layer of skin has formed. The disease usually lasts 2 to 4 weeks.
To avoid contagion, the CDC provides the following recommendations:
- Avoid close skin-to-skin contact with people who have a skin rash that looks like monkeypox.
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle, or have sexual intercourse with someone who has monkeypox.
- Avoid contact with objects or materials that have been used by someone with the disease.
- Do not share utensils or cups to eat with a person with monkeypox.
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after using the bathroom.
Currently, the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health recommend that several groups of people undergo a vaccination regimen to avoid contagion, such as people who have been exposed to monkeypox and people who may be more likely to get the disease.
These groups include:
- People who have been identified by health authorities to have had direct contact with someone who has monkeypox.
- People who are aware that one of their sexual partners in the past 2 weeks has been diagnosed with monkeypox.
- People who had multiple sexual partners in the past 2 weeks in an area with a monkeypox outbreak.
- People whose jobs may expose them to orthopoxvirus, such as:
- Laboratory workers who perform orthopoxvirus tests.
- Laboratory workers handling cultures or animals with orthopoxvirus.
- Some designated health or public health workers.
The best tool against disease is prevention and knowledge. Click here for more information about the disease, including signs and symptoms, and testing and prevention resources. (Para español, visite www.salud.gov.pr/CMS/379).
*Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, P.R. Health Department
*This blog post was written by Amairy E. Plaud López, PharmD., Senior Clinical Pharmacist, Formulary Services at Abarca Health.