How to protect yourself against monkey pox, what to do if you catch it

Test tubes labeled “Monkeypox virus positive and negative” are seen in this illustration taken May 23, 2022.

Dado Ruvic | Reuters

A recent outbreak of monkeypox in the United States, Europe, Australia and the Middle East have baffled health experts and raised concerns about a wider outbreak.

As of Wednesday, there were 346 confirmed and suspected cases in 22 countries outside Africa, where the virus is endemic, according to Our World in Data.

It marks the first known community spread of the virus. Prior to this outbreak, cases were linked to travel to areas where the virus is endemic or to imported animals carrying the virus.

The majority of new cases have been spread sexually, with a particular concentration among men who have sex with men. However, the World Health Organization has warned that anyone could be at risk of contracting the virus. Children, pregnant women and immunocompromised people are considered particularly at risk.

“Anyone who is in close contact with an infectious person is at risk,” a statement posted on the WHO website said on Wednesday.

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus, which is related to smallpox, although generally less severe. Smallpox vaccinations have been shown to be 85% effective against monkeypox.

The WHO said on Monday that mass vaccinations were unlikely to be needed to fight the outbreak. But, given the pace of the outbreak and the lack of clarity around its cause, the public health body urged people to practice good hygiene and safe sex to help control its spread.

Protect yourself against monkeypox

Although health experts agree the risks to the general public are low, there are several precautions you can take to reduce your risk of contracting the virus.

Recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UK National Health Service and WHO include:

  • Avoid coming into contact with people recently diagnosed with the virus or those who may have been infected.
  • Wear a face mask if you are in close contact with someone who has symptoms.
  • Use condoms and watch for symptoms if you have recently changed sexual partners.
  • Avoid coming into contact with animals that may carry the virus. This includes sick or dead animals and especially those with a history of infection, such as monkeys, rodents and prairie dogs.
  • Practice good hand hygiene, especially after contact with infected or suspected infected animals or humans. For example, wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for patients with confirmed or suspected monkeypox infection.

This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows oval-shaped mature monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 prairie dog epidemic.

Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner | CDC via AP

Monkeypox can also be transmitted through surfaces and materials, so it’s wise to avoid coming into contact with materials that have come into contact with a sick human or animal.

“It’s a virus that’s super stable outside of the human host, so it can live on objects like blankets and things like that,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday.

“A good practice would be to regularly wash clothes and sheets at high temperatures,” Emmanuel Andre, professor of medicine at Ku Leuven University in Belgium, told CNBC on Wednesday.

However, he said he did not think it would be necessary for the general public to start avoiding public spaces, taxis, shops and hotels.

“The general population doesn’t need to take many more precautions than we do in normal life,” he said. “If people are in the high-risk population, where they know they are in a high-risk environment, they should take extra precautions.”

What to do if you catch monkey pox

If you think you have contracted monkeypox, you should isolate yourself from physical contact with others and seek immediate medical attention.

Early symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, swelling, and back pain. Rashes and lesions then usually appear on the face, hands, feet, eyes, mouth, or genitals within one to five days. These rashes turn into raised bumps and then blisters, which may fill with white fluid before breaking up and forming scabs.

In this graphic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of one of the earliest known cases of the monkeypox virus are shown on a patient’s hand on May 27, 2003.

CDC | Getty Images

Many symptoms of the virus can be easily confused with other illnesses, such as chickenpox, herpes or syphilis, however, medical confirmation is important.

If you are diagnosed with monkeypox, you will need to self-isolate until the virus has passed. The illness is usually mild and most people recover in 2-4 weeks.

Although medical advice currently varies from country to country, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) notes that you may need to stay in a specialist hospital to prevent the infection from spreading further. ‘other people.

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