Is this cause for concern? Is there anything we can do to prevent and treat it? What are the early symptoms of monkeypox anyway? Here’s what health experts say.
How does monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox is a disease spread by a virus transmitted through close contact with an infected person. The virus lives on surfaces of materials that have come into contact with an infected person with infectious fluids or blisters, however, the primary mode of transmission requires very close, often intimate contact with an infected person, Dr. Jane OlingerSenior Science Adviser at MRIGlobal, explains this.
Different from COVID-19 infection, a person is less likely to be exposed to passersby while shopping, on public transportation, or in other situations of concern with COVID-19.
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The first symptoms to look for in monkeypox
“Monkeypox typically begins with flu-like symptoms, including fever, chills, pain, and swollen lymph nodes,” says Dr. Jay Varma, Kroll’s senior medical advisor and fellow of the Kroll Institute. “After a few days, a person may have bumps on their skin that spread to different parts of the body.”
It takes several weeks for these bumps to scale and shed, and new skin appears underneath. Dr. Varma adds that during these current outbreaks, some patients develop bumps at the same time as other symptoms and begin in the genital or anal area.
How to prevent monkeypox
The best prevention is to avoid skin contact with an infected person.
This can include touching their skin, kissing, having sex, or even sharing bedding or clothing. Dr. Ollinger explains that good hygiene, hand washing and maintaining a distance of six feet between people in the community is very effective in protecting us from monkeypox, respiratory diseases and new variants of COVID-19.
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Individuals vaccinated against smallpox are likely to be protected from infection. There are many vaccines that can be used to protect high-risk individuals – vaccination is also important for people at high risk of exposure, such as those who come into contact with infected individuals.
Exposure to monkeypox at home
Immunocompromised individuals who are in close contact or who are infected should speak to their healthcare provider to prevent disease progression.
At present, most cases of monkeypox infection are transmitted through the networks of men who have sex with men. If you are sexually active, it is important to ask your partner(s) about any bumps, rashes, or any unusual symptoms and to use a condom at all times. Dr. Varma explains that we don’t know how effective condoms are in preventing monkeypox, but it could help.
Monkeypox treatment options
Although there are no cures for monkeypox specifically, there are antiviral drugs and vaccines developed for similar viruses that can be used to treat it.
Dr. Ollinger explained that some of them have been developed to treat potential smallpox outbreaks and are in national stockpiles and are relatively difficult to provide to patients. More work is underway to make treatment available to patients.
Dr. Varma says that people with a rash from monkeypox are eligible to receive Tecorvirimat (Tpoxx). Tpoxx was originally developed to treat a similar virus, smallpox, and is available through a special program from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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