MELROSE — In an effort to encourage and enhance community health and wellness, the Melrose Health & Human Services Department is providing key information around the monkeypox virus, which was recently declared a global public health emergency. The following information has been provided by Melissa Lowry, Public Health Nurse for the City of Melrose and Town of Wakefield.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox has been in the news lately, so here are some facts and information to keep you and your loved ones healthy. Monkeypox is a viral illness with an incubation period of up to 21 days (typically 1-2 weeks). Most infections last 2-4 weeks and people are considered infectious while they have symptoms. Patients generally recover fully in 2-4 weeks.
Current CDC data indicates there have been 5,189 cases in the U.S. as of July 29, 2022. Unlike some other diseases, there have been no deaths reported in the U.S. related to this outbreak. Regularly updated case counts can be obtained on the CDC’s website.
Early symptoms of monkeypox can include fever, headache, sore throat and swollen lymph nodes, but rash may be the first symptom. Rash lesions start flat, become raised, fill with clear fluid (vesicles), and then become pustules (filled with pus). A person with monkeypox can have many lesions or only a few. The sores can sometimes be painful.
Who is at risk?
Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk. Although a large proportion of cases identified to date continue to be gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men (MSM), the risk is not limited to the LGBTQ+ community.
How is the infection spread?
The virus does not spread easily between people; transmission most frequently occurs through direct contact with monkeypox rash lesions, scabs or body fluid. In many of the recent cases, the locations of the rash lesions suggest transmission during sexual contact.
The virus can also be spread by touching items that have been contaminated with fluids/sores, e.g. clothing, bedding, etc.; or less commonly, through large respiratory droplets following prolonged face-to-face contact.
Monkeypox can spread through:
- Direct skin-to-skin contact with rash lesions. Sexual/intimate contact, including kissing while a person is infected.
- Living in a house and sharing a bed with someone. Sharing towels or unwashed clothing.
- Respiratory secretions through face-to-face interactions when someone is living with a person who has monkeypox.
Monkeypox does not spread through:
- Casual conversations or walking by someone with monkeypox in a grocery store.
- Touching items like doorknobs or mail.
How to reduce monkeypox risk
Actions for people to consider if they want to reduce their risk from monkeypox:
- Ask any partner, especially new partners whose health status and recent travel history you are not familiar with, if they have any symptoms of monkeypox.
- Avoid large gatherings like raves and dance parties where you may have lots of close body contact with others.
- Do not share clothing, towels, bedding, utensils or personal items with a person who has any symptoms of monkeypox.
- If you can’t totally isolate from someone who has monkeypox or need to care for the person, wear a mask. Wear disposable gloves if direct contact with lesions is possible and when handling clothes or bedding.
- Wash your hands regularly.
- Staying informed by reading information available on the DPH and CDC websites at mass.gov or cdc.gov.
What to do if I have monkeypox?
Contact your health care provider and cover your rash or lesions when around others. If you need to leave your home, wear a mask and cover lesions. The clinician will evaluate whether a person meets specific risk criteria and is appropriate for testing and if others may have been exposed and need to be contacted.
Post exposure vaccination for high risk monkeypox contacts
People who are known or presumed to be exposed to monkeypox are eligible to receive post-exposure vaccination with JYNNEOS. Vaccine is recommended to be administered within four days after exposure to prevent onset of disease but may be administered up to 14 days after exposure to help reduce disease severity. The vaccine is being distributed only from the CDC to individual states. Massachusetts has received several allocations and is expected to receive more.
Current information about who is eligible to receive vaccine and where to access it is available on the MDPH website: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/monkeypox-vaccination.