CDC Just Raised This Monkeypox Alert Amid Surge
With monkeypox cases hitting over 1,000 around the globe, the CDC just ramped up its alert to a level 2 (level 3 is the highest). "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 advises. "If possible, call ahead before going to a healthcare facility. If you are not able to call ahead, tell a staff member as soon as you arrive that you are concerned about monkeypox." Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
How Many Countries Have Monkeypox?
Monkeypox has been reported in 29 countries so far, with 302 cases being recorded in the UK alone—the biggest outbreak outside Africa. "Anyone can get monkeypox, particularly if you have had close contact, including sexual contact, with an individual with symptoms," says the UK's Health Security Agency. "People who are gay or bisexual and men who have sex with men remain disproportionately affected."
How Is Monkeypox Spread?
"Monkeypox spreads through respiratory droplets or by contact with fluid from skin sores," says Robert H. Shmerling, MD. "Anyone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox, or who suspects they might have it, should avoid close contact with others. Once the sores scab over, the infected person is no longer contagious. Health care workers and other caregivers should wear standard infection control gear, including gloves and a mask. In the current outbreak, many cases began with sores in the genital and rectal areas among men who have sex with men, so doctors suspect sexual contact spread the infection. As a result, experts are encouraging abstinence when monkeypox is suspected or confirmed."
Is Monkeypox More Transmissible Now?
Monkeypox has been around for a long time—the first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But is it more transmissible now? "It's possible that it is evolving in a way that makes it more transmissible," says infectious disease clinical specialist Seth Blumberg, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at UC San Francisco. "In some cases in the current outbreak the virus has been genetically sequenced, and we have not seen major changes, but the importance of subtle changes can take some time to figure out. We certainly have not previously seen this many cases emerging outside of Africa. Perhaps there are easier pathways for transmission in cities or during large events where the virus has not been before. Although it might not be a factor in this outbreak, you should also consider environmental changes as well, such as whether a different animal population has become a new reservoir for the virus."
What Are the Symptoms of Monkeypox?
"Usually, early symptoms are flu-like, including fever, fatigue, headache, and enlarged lymph nodes," says Dr. Shmerling. "A rash appears a few days later, changing over a week or two from small flat spots to tiny blisters similar to chickenpox, then to larger, pus-filled blisters. The rash often starts on the face and then appears on the palms, arms, legs, and other parts of the body. If monkeypox is spread by sexual contact, the rash may show up first on or near the genitals."
Is Monkeypox Dangerous?
No deaths have been recorded during the current outbreak, but virus experts are warning against complacency. "Monkeypox can occasionally be deadly, especially in poor places with inadequate healthcare, and is closely related to smallpox, which plagued humans for millennia," says Dr. Blumberg. "Smallpox was eradicated due to a worldwide vaccination campaign. In the United States, mass vaccinations ended in 1972, but the vaccines remain stockpiled."