You may have heard or seen reports in the news about a virus called Monkeypox that is circulating in the U.S. and in Washington State. Right now, we do not have any confirmed cases of Monkeypox (MPV) in Whatcom County, but we may see our first case of this virus in the near future. It is important to know that Monkeypox is very different from COVID-19. Our response will be different and specific to MPV. We want to share information with you on how to stay safe from Monkeypox and what the Health Department is doing to prepare.
What is Monkeypox Virus?
Monkeypox virus (MPV) naturally infects small mammals in West and Central Africa. In humans, monkeypox will usually cause one or more painful sores or blisters. It also causes fever and swollen lymph nodes in about 50% of cases. Lymph nodes are bean-shaped glands in the neck, armpits, and other parts of the body. Illness usually lasts 2-4 weeks. Sometimes people become sick enough to be hospitalized.
How does Monkeypox Virus spread in humans?
MPV is currently spreading between people primarily through direct skin-to-skin contact with the infectious sores or body fluids. MPV may be transmitted by respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact, kissing, or sex. Respiratory transmission through brief casual interactions is very unlikely. MPV may also be spread by material contaminated by MPV sores, like bedding or clothing. Current evidence suggests that someone must have symptoms in order to spread the disease to others.
As of today, Aug 1, there have been approximately 5,189 confirmed cases in the US, and 120 cases in Washington State, according to the CDC.
Who is at risk and how can I stay safe?
Anyone can get monkeypox, but some people are at a higher risk. Unlike the virus that causes COVID-19, monkeypox is primarily spread through close physical contact and does not spread through the air over longer distances. Brief interactions that do not involve physical contact are considered low risk.
Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection, but right now most Monkeypox cases in the U.S. are being spread through skin-to-skin contact during sex. It is important to remember that anyone who is sexually active with multiple partners or whose partner has sex with multiple partners is at higher risk.
Other risk factors may include travel to areas where monkeypox is spreading, close, non-sexual contact with an infected person, or contact with sick animals. To protect yourself and others from monkeypox, practice safer sex methods, and avoid physical contact with anyone who has open wounds, sores, or rashes.
How can we prevent the spread and what is the Health Department doing?
Controlling the outbreak is possible. To stop monkeypox, we must stop the person-to-person transmission, and we need to make sure we prevent transmission to pets and wildlife.
To bring monkeypox under control, we need to:
Where can I get more information?