Monkeypox Outbreak: Information, Awareness, and Prevention
Monkeypox is gaining national attention for its spread across the U.S. and recent declaration as a national public health emergency. Cases have been reported in more than a dozen Illinois counties and in varying concentrations across the midwest region. To provide our communities with guidance toward trusted sources of information, the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago has compiled the following brief about the history, transmissibility, and prevention and treatment of the current monkeypox outbreak.
History and Overview:
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 in colonies of monkeys kept for research. In 1970, the first human case of monkeypox was recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and most cases in subsequent years were reported in central and western African countries.
Beginning in early 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported cases of monkeypox in more than 100 nations across all of its global regions. Since May 2022, a high proportion of these cases have been reported from countries without previously documented monkeypox transmission. As noted above, U.S. officials declared monkeypox a public health emergency on August 4.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox is a rare disease caused by an infection with the monkeypox virus. Though it may sound similar to chickenpox, the two viruses are not related. Monkeypox is, however, related to the smallpox virus, though monkeypox generally produces milder symptoms and is less fatal.
Symptoms of the type of monkeypox virus driving the current global outbreak (CladeIIb) include fever, headache, muscle and back aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, respiratory symptoms, and—perhaps the most recognizable symptom—a rash on the face and body that can look like blisters or pimples.
More than 99% of people who get the CladeIIb type of monkeypox are likely to survive. People with weakened immune systems, children under the age of 8, people with a history of eczema, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be more susceptible to serious illness and complications.
Anyone can get monkeypox, and the CDC considers it a public health concern for all communities.
Monkeypox primarily spreads from person to person through direct contact with the infectious monkeypox rash, its scabs, or bodily fluids. It can also be spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face or intimate physical contact, droplets produced by sneezing or coughing, or by touching or sharing infected items such clothing and bedding.
The monkeypox virus can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed, which may take up to several weeks.
Prevention and Treatment:
For general monkeypox prevention, public health officials recommend avoiding close, skin-to-skin contact with anyone who has a rash that looks like monkeypox. Objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used–such as utensils, cups, bedding, or towels–should not be shared. And finally (and as a good general public health practice!), be sure to wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face, and after using the bathroom.
Before attending a crowded social gathering, consider how much direct skin-to-skin contact is likely to occur. If you show any symptoms of monkeypox or have come in close contact with a person infected with monkeypox, stay home except to see a healthcare provider, avoid contact with other people, animals, and pets, and seek medical attention.
For more information, YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago recommends visiting the CDC’s very helpful Monkeypox FAQ page.
Information sourced from who.int and cdc.gov