How do you get monkeypox? 7 ways to avoid contracting virus as US declares outbreak a public health emergency

Since the US Department of Health and Human Services has declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency as the number of cases continues to rise, the most important thing you can do is know your risk level. Monkeypox is still rare and most people are at low risk.

But if you’re in a city where monkeypox is spreading and in a community where it’s spreading, you’re at higher risk in this current phase of the outbreak.

The monkeypox outbreak first began spreading among men who have sex with men, a group that includes people who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender and non-binary. The group remains at the highest risk. So far, most cases have been reported in major cities like New York and Los Angeles.

MORE: Everything you need to know about monkeypox infections, vaccines and more

As the outbreak progresses, the virus could soon spread further, affecting different demographic groups.

Experts interviewed by ABC News provided the latest information on safety. Alongside these suggestions, the experts reiterated that the risk of transmission to the general population is currently low. However, they agreed that everyone should be aware of the current outbreak and take steps to reduce the risk.

Be vigilant: Avoid close or skin contact with anyone who may have the virus

Direct, close skin-to-skin contact is considered the main route of transmission, which can occur in a variety of ways. It can occur simply through daily contact with a case of monkeypox in close proximity, or it can occur through intimate contact as well as during sexual contact,” said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University.

Because monkeypox can spread during sexual intimacy, it’s important to be “honest and open with your intimate partners” about risks and possible past exposures, said Richard Silvera, a professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The CDC says monkeypox is contagious from the onset of symptoms until the rash has healed. The typical duration of the illness is two to four weeks.

“You can have a rash on multiple parts of the body, and that rash can look like many things. It can look like a pimple, it can look like a small bump that mimics folliculitis, where the hair follicle becomes infected. can be painless or painful,” said Dr. Robert Pitts, infectious disease physician at NYU Langone Health.

Don’t share: Avoid sharing towels, clothes and bedding

The virus can spread through contaminated items such as “clothes, linens, towels and other porous materials,” says Dr. Anne Rimoin, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Although this form of transmission is not nearly as common as skin contact, it should still be kept in mind when sharing items with others.

“This virus could live on these surfaces for a while and then spread to another person,” Rimoin said.

The CDC also recommends avoiding utensils or cups used by someone with monkeypox.

General Hygiene: Wash hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

“Hand hygiene is the most important thing, not just with monkeypox, but with any infectious disease,” says Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief correspondent.

Because hands are the conduit between everything we touch and where germs can enter — eyes, nose, mouth — hand hygiene is critical to staying healthy. Practices that worked for the past two years still work.

“Wearing a mask, washing your hands … if it works for COVID, it will work for monkeypox,” says Silvera

Cover-up: Being fully clothed can be safer, especially when facing large crowds

To reduce the chance of skin contact with someone who may have the virus, wear clothing that covers your body.

The CDC says that “festivals, events and concerts where attendees are fully clothed and unlikely to have skin contact are safer” compared to similar events with minimal clothing and close contact.

“These are not events where transmission is likely, but if you feel like you fall into a high-risk category, you might want to exercise a little more caution,” he says. dr John Brownstein, ABC News contributor and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Disinfect: Wipe any contaminated surfaces

According to the CDC, monkeypox is considered an orthopoxvirus that is sensitive to many disinfectants. They recommend disinfecting areas where someone with monkeypox has been and items they may have used.

“At the same time, it’s not like people need to go back to those old COVID days when there was a lot of confusion and wiping down food and disinfecting household items where there’s literally no risk,” Brownstein says.

For those specifically in high transmission areas or encountering surfaces or objects used by someone with monkeypox, disinfection can provide additional protection.

The CDC recommends using an EPA-registered disinfectant.

Get vaccinated if necessary: ​​Contact your local health department

The CDC currently recommends that vaccines should be given to those at risk of contracting monkeypox. This includes those who have been exposed to monkeypox, as well as people who know that one of their sex partners has been diagnosed in the past two weeks, or people with multiple sex partners in the past two weeks who live in an area with known monkeypox. People should check with their local health department to determine eligibility requirements.

“If we had a lot more vaccine stocks, we could consider vaccinating groups that have very dense social networks, like colleges, students, prisons, life situations that would potentially allow for multiple contacts where there could be risk,” says Brownstein.

Stay in the loop: Be on the lookout for new information as it arrives

“We’ve got to all pitch it together and kind of figure that out as we go,” Silvera said.

Researchers and clinicians are also learning more every day.

“I was involved with monkeypox as an infectious disease doctor, but it wasn’t until May that I started seeing and interacting with monkeypox patients. So that was a steep learning curve for me,” Pitts said.

So far, the number of cases of monkeypox has been relatively small. We will continue to learn more about the virus over time, and expert guidance will evolve accordingly. But experts emphasize that it is important to remain calm.

“This is very different from the coronavirus in many ways and that’s why I think people should be aware and concerned about it, but at the same time not really panic,” El-Sadr said.

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