The Center for Disease Control and Prevention seeks to allay public concerns about how the monkeypox virus is transmitted, emphasizing that it does not spread so easily through the air because it requires close contact with an infected person.
CDC officials said this week that monkeypox is spread primarily through permanent physical contact, such as skin-to-skin contact, with a person who has an active rash. The virus can also be spread through contact with items that contain the virus, such as shared beds and clothing. However, it can also be spread through respiratory tract infections, although not as easily as Covid-19, they said.
A monkeypox patient with a sore throat or mouth can spread the virus through respiratory tract if they have been around for a long time. However, according to CDC official Dr. Jennifer McQueston, the virus does not spread easily.
“It’s not Covid,” McQueston told reporters in a call Monday. “Respiratory outbreaks are not a major concern. It is the current outbreak setting and communication and close communication between the population.”
According to McQueston, for example, nine people infected with monkeypox took long flights from Nigeria to other countries without infecting anyone else on the plane.
“It’s not a situation where if you pass someone by the grocery store, they will be at risk of monkeypox,” he said.
According to Dr. John Brooks, a medical epidemiologist in the CDC Department for the Prevention of AIDS, the characteristics of monkeypox are the source from which the virus spreads and people become most infected when these lesions appear on the skin.
However, Brooks said that front-line health care providers should take standard precautions for infectious diseases when treating patients with monkeypox, including wearing an N95 respirator mask, gloves and a gown if contact with the patient is particularly close.
The United States has confirmed a monkeypox case in Massachusetts and four presumed cases in New York City, Florida and Utah that require further analysis. The CDC sequenced the virus from a Massachusetts patient within 48 hours and found a patient match in Portugal, McQueston said. Additional cases will probably be reported in the coming days, he said.
Recent cases of monkeypox in the United States and around the world have been identified as a West African strain, a mild form of the virus. Monkeypox is in the same family as smallpox, but not as severe. Most people with this monkeypox strain recover within two to four weeks without specific treatment, McQueston said.
Monkeypox usually begins with flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes. The disease then develops into a rash that can spread to different parts of the body, including the face, eyes, hands, feet, mouth or genitals. These rashes turn into raised bumps that become blisters. However, in some recent cases, the rash has appeared first.
The World Health Organization has identified about 200 confirmed or suspected cases in at least a dozen countries. Recent outbreaks are unusual because they occur in North America and European countries where the virus is not as endemic as in Africa. Monkeypox is commonly found in the rain forests of western and central Africa, where it is home to animals that carry live viruses.
The WHO said this week that the current virus appears to have spread among men who have sex with men. Brooks, a CDC official, warned of the potential risks to gay and bisexual men, although he stressed that anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, could catch the virus.
Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, which is usually spread through semen and vaginal fluid, Brooks said. It is important for physicians and individuals to know that current patients have some anal or genital lesions that can be confused with sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes or syphilis in addition to chickenpox, Brooks added.
“Anyone who has a rash or wound around them or their genitals, their anus or any other area they have never seen before, should be fully evaluated for both the rash but especially for sexually transmitted infections and other illnesses that can cause rashes,” he said. “She said.
The CDC plans to raise its public health message ahead of the LGBTQ Pride month, which begins in June, so that people in the community are aware of the situation, Brooks said.
The recent outbreak of monkeypox in multiple countries is also different from covid because there are already federally approved vaccines that are effective in preventing monkeypox. The United States has 100 million doses of the older generation Smallpox vaccine, ACAM2000, which could be used to protect against monkeypox, although it could have significant side effects and any decision to distribute it widely would require serious discussion, McQueston said.
There is another vaccine, Genius, which targets smallpox and monkeypox and does not have the same risk of significant side effects. It is administered in two doses to people 18 years of age or older who have a high risk of smallpox or monkeypox. However, there are only 1,000 available doses of the vaccine available in the United States, although drugmaker Bavarian Nordic will begin increasing its production in the coming weeks, McQueston said.