On August 4th, 2022, the US Department of Health and Human Services announced the ongoing spread of the monkeypox virus as a public health emergency. This declaration is set to strengthen and accelerate the government’s response to this outbreak.
What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that is similar to smallpox, though considerably less severe. Nearly all cases present with a characteristic rash and symptoms such as malaise, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. Some patients also report feeling chills, muscle aches, and headaches.
Symptoms will typically appear within a week of exposure and last for two to four weeks.
How Does Monkeypox Spread?
The monkeypox virus spreads through direct contact with the bodily fluids of a symptomatic infected person or animal or through contact with contaminated objects, such as clothing or bedding that has been in contact with an infected individual.
In previous monkeypox epidemics, the primary source of infection was contact with infected animals. However, the current outbreak appears to be spreading primarily through human-to-human contact.
How Many Confirmed Cases So Far?
These cases are now spread throughout 88 countries and nearly all 50 states.
For now, the number of deaths resulting from monkeypox is very low, with only ten confirmed cases globally so far.
Should I Be Worried?
At this point in time, the CDC still considers the risk to the general public is low. They currently list an advisory note for this outbreak at an Alert Level 2: Practice Enhanced Precautions. This suggests that it is more serious than Level 1: Practice Usual Precautions, but not as serious as Level 3: Avoid Unnecessary Travel.
If you’ve come into contact recently with anyone who has been confirmed or suspected to have monkeypox, or if you have a rash, fever, or other symptoms indicative of the virus, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately.
How Can I Stay Safe?
General recommendations for avoiding monkeypox include:
- Clean your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
- Avoid close or direct contact with people who are sick or symptomatic.
- Do not touch your face, nose, or mouth if your hands are not clean.
- Do not touch wild animals, especially if they appear sick or dead.
- If you are sick or symptomatic, stay at home and away from others to prevent the spread of illness.
If you are living with a weakened immune system or otherwise at increased risk, it is important to take extra precautions to avoid exposure.
Along with the public health emergency declaration, vaccines and treatments for monkeypox are currently being distributed at a much high rate. Talk to your doctor if you think you may need to be vaccinated against the monkeypox virus.