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CDC Just Changed Its Monkeypox Guidance Big Time

Monkeypox continues to spread.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Although health experts say it's not another COVID-19, monkeypox continues to spread in the U.S. and several countries worldwide. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the average person's risk of contracting monkeypox is low, the agency has changed some guidelines and issued new ones this month for people who might be at high risk of exposure to the virus. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


To Mask or Not Against Monkeypox?

Happy woman removing mask from face outdoors.

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that the CDC had changed its online recommendations about monkeypox, then deleted that modification. At first, the agency encouraged travelers who wanted to protect themselves from monkeypox to "Wear a mask. Wearing a mask can help protect you from many diseases, including monkeypox." Then it scrubbed those lines from its website.

"CDC removed the mask recommendation from the monkeypox travel health notice because it caused confusion," the agency said. 

The CDC clarified that in countries where monkeypox is spreading, "household contacts and health care workers" should consider wearing masks. So should "other people who may be in close contact with a person who has been confirmed with monkeypox."

Experts say that monkeypox is mainly spread through close, prolonged contact, although spread by respiratory droplets has been reported. The Times pointed out that the CDC's hedging on the issue was similar to the COVID-19 pandemic, when the agency took more than a year to advise that aerosol transmission of the coronavirus was possible.

Monkeypox infection requires "really close sustained contact," Andrea McCollum, the CDC's top expert on the virus, told the Times. "This is not a virus that was transmitted over several meters," she said. "That's why we have to be really careful how to frame this."


CDC Issues Safer Sex Guidelines

couple in live holding hads while lying in bed together

The majority of monkeypox cases have been reported in men who have sex with men, although experts say anyone can contract the virus, and it is not a sexually transmitted infection. 

Nevertheless, this week the CDC published an online guide on how to avoid monkeypox transmission during sex. The recommendations in "Social Gatherings, Safer Sex and Monkeypox" include:  

  • Have "virtual sex with no in-person contact" 
  • Masturbate together "at a distance of at least six feet, without touching each other and without touching any rash or sores" 
  • Have sex "with your clothes on or covering areas where rash or sores are present, reducing as much skin-to-skin contact as possible"
  • Avoid kissing 
  • Limit sexual partners

What is Monkeypox?

Woman scratching arm indoors

Monkeypox is a zoonotic (meaning it jumps from animals to humans) virus endemic to several countries in Africa. 

According to the CDC, the symptoms of monkeypox include fever, swollen lymph nodes, headache, fatigue and body aches, followed by a rash that turns into raised bumps and blisters.

Monkeypox spreads through close contact with an infected person, or prolonged contact with items that contain the virus, such as bedsheets. People with monkeypox are considered most infectious while they have a rash. The incubation period can be seven to 14 days, the CDC says. The disease can last two to four weeks, and most people recover without treatment. A person with monkeypox can be contagious from one day before they develop a rash to 21 days after symptoms appear. 


What If I Have Symptoms?

Woman removing adhesive plaster from the wound after blood test injection

"Risk to the general public is low, but you should seek medical care immediately if you develop new, unexplained skin rash (lesions on any part of the body), with or without fever and chills, and avoid contact with others," the CDC says. "If possible, call ahead before going to a healthcare facility."

And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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