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Monkeypox is declared a public health emergency

Monkeypox is declared a public health emergency

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This month, the Biden administration declared monkeypox, a rare viral disease, a public health emergency, with cases on the rise across the U.S. The Monkeypox virus is part of the same family of the as variola virus, which causes smallpox, and symptoms are similar but milder and rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox. 

What is monkeypox? 

Monkeypox was discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research. Despite being named “monkeypox,” the source of the disease remains unknown. However, African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) might harbor the virus and infect people. 

The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970. Prior to the 2022 outbreak, monkeypox had been reported in people in several central and western African countries. Previously, almost all monkeypox cases in people outside of Africa were linked to international travel to countries where the disease commonly occurs or through imported animals. These cases occurred on multiple continents. 

Symptoms of monkeypox can include: 

  • Fever 
  • Headache 
  • Muscle aches and backache 
  • Swollen lymph nodes 
  • Chills 
  • Exhaustion 
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g., sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough) 
  • Rash (the most common symptom) 

Monkeypox symptoms usually start within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus. Individuals with flu-like symptoms will usually develop a rash 1-4 days later. The number and type of symptoms may vary from person to person. 

Monkeypox can spread to others by physical contact from the time symptoms start until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. 

Who may be susceptible to monkeypox? 

  • People identified by public health officials as a contact of someone with monkeypox 
  • People with one or more sexual partners in the past 2 weeks diagnosed with monkeypox 
  • People with multiple sexual partners in the past 2 weeks in an area with known monkeypox 
  • People whose jobs may expose them to orthopoxviruses, such as laboratory workers who perform testing for, or handle cultures or animals with, orthopoxviruses, and other designated healthcare or public health workers 

Vaccine protection 

The preferred vaccine to protect against monkeypox is JYNNEOS, which is a two-dose vaccine. It takes 14 days after getting the second dose of JYNNEOS to reach its maximum protection.  

Monkeypox treatment 

There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections. However, monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, which means that antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections. 

Steps employers can take to help mitigate monkeypox 

Organizations have been re-evaluating health, safety, and cleaning protocols to help prevent the spread of monkeypox in the workplace. In addition to the prevention measures put into place to stem the spread of COVID-19, such as washing hands, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, routinely cleaning all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, avoiding contact with people who are sick, and staying home when sick, employers may consider the following strategies: 

  • Stay current on monkeypox guidelines by receiving information from reputable sources, such as the CDC, WHO, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and state public health departments, to keep workplace guidelines up to date. 
  • Communicate how to avoid infection and prevent the spread of monkeypox.  
  • Use targeted, culturally sensitive communications to educate employees, especially those who are at risk, about monkeypox. Educate members on how to recognize symptoms and establish confidential channels for communicating healthcare and workplace needs related to exposure or infection.  
  • Consider offering paid time off or work-from-home options for people experiencing symptoms or feeling sick. Modify sick leave policies to allow for appropriate time off for exposure and the diagnosis of monkeypox.  
  • The CDC recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and people who may be more likely to contract the virus. Communicate vaccine eligibility criteria to employees, including information on locations where vaccines are available, and insurance coverage information.  

 Source: CDC 8/05/2022