In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was all anyone could think about. Then came the many variants in 2021. Now — in 2022 — the monkeypox virus is on the minds of nearly every American. While the first report of the monkeypox virus in humans can be traced back to 1970 in central and west Africa (specifically the Democratic Republic of Congo), and later in the U.S. in 2003, the virus is now making a global impact for the first time in its history as the list of affected countries grows to 87.
However, most people know very little about the monkeypox virus considering the amount that monkeypox is being discussed. Is it dangerous? How can I get the monkeypox virus? What are the symptoms of monkeypox virus infection? Are vaccines available for the monkeypox virus? These questions have gone largely unanswered, so we turned to information from the experts for some answers.
Below, the Trusted Referral Network answers common monkeypox questions with the goal of educating people and ensuring that you know how to protect yourself against this virus.
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According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as smallpox (not chickenpox,) and the symptoms are largely similar. Unlike smallpox, however, symptoms of the monkeypox virus are generally milder and severe disease is very rare. These symptoms can include:
Lymph node swelling
Further, monkeypox virus infection patients may experience a rash or skin lesions near or on their genitals, feet, hands, face, and mouth.
The Spread of Monkeypox
As of August 22nd, 2022, there have been 15,509 reported cases of monkeypox in the U.S. and 0 deaths. This is compared to the 44,503 global monkeypox cases which have been reported since the outbreak began. From the onset of the monkeypox outbreak, the virus has primarily impacted gay and bisexual men — and these individuals continue to make up the majority of new cases. However, Seth Blumberg, MD, Ph.D. of the University of California, San Francisco, notes that the virus should not be “blamed” on a specific group in the same way that “Lyme disease should not be blamed on hikers.” Still, risk factors are increased in gay and bisexual communities.
Monkeypox virus infection can happen in many ways but is primarily passed on through close human-to-human transmission. This can include skin-to-skin contact, the exchange of body fluids, respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing or even coming in contact with clothing that someone with the virus has worn. After someone has contracted the virus, they can transmit it for up to four weeks — or until the initial rash and skin lesions have healed, and a new layer of skin has been formed.
Monkeypox can also be transmitted through animal contact. Individuals who are bitten or scratched by an infected animal may contract the virus, and the virus can even be transmitted by eating the meat of infected wild animals. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been working diligently to slow the spread of the monkeypox virus.
How Dangerous is Monkeypox?
Fortunately, there have been zero confirmed deaths from the latest monkeypox virus outbreak — and the threat is not thought to be anywhere near that of COVID-19, according to Seth Blumberg, MD, Ph.D. Still, you should take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and others from the virus; extra precautions should be taken if you are part of the communities which have been disproportionately affected by the virus.
A vaccine is currently available for those at an increased risk of contracting monkeypox, which is a proven disease prevention tool and has managed to slow the spread of the virus.
What to Do If You Think You Have Monkeypox
If you have come in contact with someone with monkeypox or think you may have contracted the virus, don’t panic. Instead, limit close contact with others and monitor your symptoms. If you begin to show symptoms of monkeypox, contact your healthcare provider for an official test. Until you test negative, isolate yourself much as you would under COVID-19 protocol to limit the spread. Your healthcare provider will also be able to provide additional guidance depending on your specific situation and medical history.
Stay In the Loop with the Trusted Referral Network
The monkeypox outbreak is changing daily, and knowing how to recognize symptoms and avoid spreading the virus is the easiest way to stay safe. To stay up-to-date on the latest from health experts and ensure that you have the right healthcare plan for your needs, lean on the Trusted Referral Network.
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