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

With the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declaring the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency, the most important thing you can do is know your risk level. Monkeypox is still rare and the risk to most people is low.

However, if you live in a city where monkeypox is spreading and in a community where it is spreading, you are at high risk at this stage of the epidemic.

Monkeypox first began spreading among men who have sex with men, including people who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender, and non-binary. The group has the highest risk. So far, most cases have been reported in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles.

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

As the outbreak continues, the virus may soon spread further and begin affecting different demographic groups.

Experts interviewed by ABC News provided the latest information on how to stay safe. Along with these recommendations, experts once again emphasized that the risk of infection to the general population in this case is low. But they agreed that everyone should be aware of the current outbreak and take steps to reduce the risk.

Stay alert: Avoid close or skin-to-skin contact with people who have the virus

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

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

The CDC says monkeypox is contagious from the time symptoms start until the rash clears. Two to four weeks is the typical duration of the disease.

“You can have a rash in several places on your 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. It can be painless or painful,” said Dr. Robert Pitts, an infectious disease physician at NYU Langone Health.

Do not share: Avoid sharing towels, clothes and bed sheets

The virus can spread through contaminated objects, including “clothes, sheets, towels and other porous materials,” Dr. Anne Rimoin, professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Although this type of transmission is not as common as skin-to-skin contact, it is important to keep these things in mind when sharing things with others.

“This virus can live on those 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 or alcohol-based hand sanitizer

“Hand hygiene is critical not just for monkeypox, but for any infectious disease,” said ABC News Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton.

Hands are the vector between the things we touch and the places where germs can enter – eyes, nose, mouth – hand hygiene is essential for good health. The practice, which has been in place for the past two years, is still working.

“Wearing a mask, washing your hands… if it works for COVID, it works for monkey pox,” says Silvera.

Cover Up: It may be safer to be fully clothed, especially when there are large crowds

Wear clothing that covers your body to reduce the chance of skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the virus.

The CDC says “festivals, events and concerts where participants are fully clothed and may not have skin-to-skin contact” require less clothing and close contact compared to similar events.

“These are not events where infectious diseases can occur, but certainly if you feel like you’re in a high-risk category, you want to be a little bit more careful,” he says. Dr. John Brownstein, ABC News contributor and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Disinfection: Wipe down potentially contaminated surfaces

Monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus that is sensitive to many disinfectants, according to the CDC. They recommend disinfecting places where people with monkeypox spend time and the things they use.

“At the same time, people don’t have to go back to the old COVID days of messing around and cleaning up groceries and disinfecting household items,” Brownstein says.

Disinfection may provide additional protection for those who have come in contact with the surfaces or objects of people with monkeypox or are specifically used in infected areas.

CDC recommends using an EPA-registered disinfectant.

Get vaccinated if eligible: Contact your local health department

The CDC currently recommends that the vaccine be given to people who are at risk for monkeypox. This includes people who have had monkeypox, as well as people who know that one of their sexual partners has been diagnosed in the past two weeks, or people who have had multiple sexual partners who have lived in an area with known monkeypox in the past two weeks. People should check with their local health department to determine eligibility.

“If we have a lot of vaccine, we might consider vaccinating groups with social networks like colleges, students, prisons, living situations that allow for multiple contacts that may be at risk,” Brownstein says.

Stay current: Be on the lookout for new information as it becomes available

“We all have to pick it up together and figure it out as we go along,” Silvera said.

Even researchers and clinicians are learning more every day.

“When I started as an infectious disease doctor, I studied monkeypox, but as early as May I was seeing and interacting with patients with monkeypox. So it was a steep learning curve for me,” Pitts said.

Until now, the number of cases of monkeypox was relatively small. As time goes on, we will continue to learn more about the virus, and as a result, expert advice will change. However, experts stress that it is important to remain calm.

“It’s different from the coronavirus in many ways, so I think people should be aware and concerned, but at the same time not really panic,” El-Sadr said.

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