In non-endemic countries, the number of monkey cases is on the rise, but health officials say the epidemic could be contagious and pose little threat to the general public.
To date, more than 1,300 monkeys have been diagnosed in countries where the virus is not endemic. In the United States, 45 cases have been reported so far, just two fewer than those detected during the 2003 epidemic.
The White House is currently increasing doses of vaccines that are considered effective against the smallpox virus, as well as expanding the possibilities for testing for the orthopoxvirus family of monkeys.
The death toll from the monkey smallpox virus is very low and no deaths have been reported in non-endemic countries this year. Infections usually last two to four weeks, and once the characteristic ulcers are completely healed, the person is considered no longer contagious.
Smallpox is primarily transmitted through prolonged skin-to-skin contact, but can sometimes be transmitted through respiratory droplets when an infection occurs in the mouth or throat of an infected person.
With the onset of summer, people spend time outdoors in crowded places. Health experts said people should not change their plans because of the monkey disease, but advised to be a little more careful.
Here are some simple ways to maintain safety and limit the spread of smallpox during the current epidemic.
Examine yourself and others for symptoms
Many people are accustomed to the COVID-19 pandemic, so evaluate the symptoms of monkey disease before going to an event or meeting someone else.
Symptoms are usually similar to the flu and include fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and chills.
However, health officials reported that in some cases, the infection was mild or asymptomatic shortly after infection.
The most common sign of smallpox is a characteristic rash that appears on various parts of the body and face. The disease goes through several stages and eventually becomes debilitating. The scales eventually fall off and the skin heals, in which case the person is considered non-infectious.
Most cases have been identified among men who have had sex with men so far, and health officials have reported that many infected people develop rashes around the buttocks or anus. Because mirrors are difficult to see on your own, use mirrors, cameras, or a friend you understand if you think you may be infected but have not seen sores on any part of your body that you can see.
Before having sex, also have a visual examination of the skin of your future partner.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released images showing what monkey smallpox can look like.
Wash your hands, do the laundry
Standard methods of cleaning and sanitation are still considered effective in limiting the spread of monkeys.
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap or water after going out in public. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and work under your fingernails and between your fingers. The CDC has released a video on handwashing, which can be viewed here.
Another common cause of smallpox in monkeys is through the clothing or bedding of an infected person. If you are recovering from a smallpox infection or if you think you are infected, you should get rid of the virus by washing your sheets and clothes with detergent and warm water in a standard washing machine.
Avoid high-risk situations
The CDC believes that monkeys are safe in festivals and events where participants are fully dressed in terms of smallpox transmission. However, people need to know about other types of communication, such as kissing.
Indoors that do not wear minimal clothing, such as saunas or rafters, have a higher risk of infection. The first smallpox epidemic in Europe was associated with songs that took place in several countries.
Although smallpox is rare, it can be transmitted through respiratory droplets, so participants should avoid events that are concentrated indoors.
Talk to your healthcare provider about getting tested
U.S. health officials say they are working to expand access to orthopoxir testing. If you think you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for smallpox, contact your healthcare provider to get tested for the orthopox virus.
Raj Panjabi, the White House’s senior director of global health and biosecurity, said public health laboratories are now capable of conducting more than 1,000 tests a day.
“We are working to make testing more convenient through public health laboratories and to expand testing beyond public health laboratories through commercial partners. But it can only happen when people with test symptoms seek help, ”Punjabi told a news briefing on Friday.
Because smallpox is rare in the United States, some health care providers may not be aware of the symptoms of the virus, so if you recognize possible symptoms and think you may be infected, you may need to be diagnosed with smallpox.
Smallpox vaccines such as Jyneos and ACAM2000 are effective against monkey smallpox and are mobilized to states where infections have been identified. Anti-smallpox drugs such as brinchidofovir and tecovirimat can also be used to treat monkey smallpox, and recent studies support their potential antiviral efficacy.
Most people recover from an infection within two to four weeks.
If you are infected, wear a condom
Smallpox is spread when a person comes in contact with body fluids. However, health officials are unaware that the virus can be transmitted through vaginal fluids and semen.
This possible route of transmission remains unclear, with UK health authorities recommending people recovering from monkeys to wear a condom during sexual intercourse for up to eight weeks after infection.
If the infection persists and there are active sores on the skin, sexual intercourse should be avoided, even with a condom.
Although smallpox is not a sexually transmitted infection, regular skin-to-skin contact, as during sexual intercourse, can lead to infection.