Monkeypox is dominating headlines across the country — and the world — as cases continue to spread. So far, there have been more than 6,000 cases in the United States, according to data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And as cases increase, it is understandable to question how monkeypox is spread.
Monkeypox isn’t nearly as contagious as COVID-19, says Thomas Russo, MD, professor and chair of the division of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo in New York. You have They appear worldwide in areas where the disease is not usually seen. It’s hard to get accurate global estimates, but World Health Organization (WHO) has the global case count at 16,000 as of July 23. The World Health Organization has also declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern, which is identifier as “an exceptional event that has been identified as posing a public health risk to other countries through the international spread of disease and may require a coordinated international response.”
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently updated the . file guidance on monkeypox and how it spreads to include a requirement that infected people wear an appropriate mask to “prevent the wearer from spreading oral and respiratory secretions” if they need to be around others, which raises some questions about whether monkeypox is airborne. (More on that in a moment.)
Ahead, infectious disease experts share everything you need to know about the disease — including how it spreads, monkeypox symptoms, and preventative measures.
How does monkeypox spread?
There have been a lot of questions about this lately, since monkeypox has suddenly appeared in areas where it is not usually found. Whereas monkeypox is endemic (meaning it is constantly present at a certain level) in Central and West Africait is unusual to see it in many different areas at once.
People usually get monkeypox when they come into contact with the virus from an animal, person, or material contaminated with the virus, according to the Center for Disease Control. The virus can then enter the body through broken skin, eyes, nose, or mouth. It is also possible to contract monkeypox by being bitten or scratched by an infected animal, or by direct or indirect contact with body fluids or pests from infected people.
The CDC also said monkeypox was spread through food items, which are objects, surfaces or materials that can carry infectious particles. Infectious disease expert Amish A. Even bed sheets can be alarming, says Dr. Russo. “Bed sheets can be contaminated with a mixture of fluids or scabies from someone with monkeypox,” he says. “Another person can come into contact with those sheets or bedding through tiny cracks in their skin and become infected.”
The CDC says in guidance When cleaning up after a person has contracted monkeypox, the virus can live on surfaces such as sheets for up to 15 days. But the organization also notes that orthopoxviruses such as monkeypox can survive in a home-like environment for “weeks or months,” noting that porous materials such as beds and clothing can harbor live viruses for longer periods than non-porous (also known as plastic, glass and metal) .
While mold can play a role in the spread of monkeypox, Dr. Schaffner says this is something you’re not likely to pick up on the street or at the grocery store. “This is not Covid,” he says.
Is monkeypox spread through sex?
But the current global outbreak appears to be related to sex – although public health officials have made a point to say monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection. The virus appeared mostly in men who have sex with men, and in some cases the lesions were confined to the genital area, “indicating transmission during intercourse.” according to European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
But Dr. Adalja points out that it is possible to spread monkeypox through sexual contact without being an STD. “Sexual interaction involves very close contact and pathogens can use that contact to transmit infection, even if it is not strictly a sexually transmitted infection,” he says. Skin-to-skin contact and exposure to respiratory droplets that can facilitate transmission of infection in these encounters.
“It’s not the sexual act that’s so important, it’s more than skin-to-skin contact.”
Dr. Russo explains that an STI usually means that a virus or disease is spread through sexual fluids, such as vaginal secretions or semen. “If I’m linguistically correct, it’s technically not a sexually transmitted infection,” he says. “You can pass through such intimate contact without intercourse and still acquire the infection through intimate contact with the skin and/or respiratory droplets produced through kissing.”
“Monkeypox is not a virus that infects the genitals as gonorrhea or syphilis does,” says William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “It’s not the sexual act that’s so important, it’s more than skin-to-skin contact.”
Is monkeypox airborne?
While the CDC recommends masking to prevent the spread of monkeypox, it is not considered an airborne virus. Explains Rafael E. Validity. Airborne transmission occurs when small virus particles become suspended in the air and can remain there for periods of time. These particles can spread through air currents and infect people over great distances. This is not the case with the monkeypox virus.”
However, monkeypox can be found “in droplets such as saliva or respiratory secretions that quickly leak out of the air,” Dr. Perez Figueroa said. But he added, “No long-term or airborne transmission of monkeypox has been reported. Currently, scientists are studying how often the virus spreads through respiratory secretions and when those secretions are most contagious.”
Why does the CDC recommend masks to prevent the spread of monkeypox?
The recommendation is a little more specific than what people explain. “At this point, there is no evidence that mask-wearing would prevent transmission of monkeypox in the community,” says Dr. Perez-Figueroa. But he notes that “wearing an N95 mask, gloves, gowns, and eye protection is recommended for caregivers of people with monkeypox” and “infected people should wear a mask if they must be around others.”
Basically, if you know you have monkeypox or are going to interact with people who have monkeypox, it’s a good idea to keep it a secret. But you don’t need to wear a mask in public because of monkeypox fears (though could help reduce the risk of contracting COVID).
“Most cases of monkeypox indicate close contact with an infected person,” says Dr. Perez-Figueroa. We do not know exactly what role direct contact versus respiratory secretions play in transmission. However, evidence suggests that he is more likely to catch monkeypox from direct contact.”
What are the symptoms of monkeypox disease?
Monkeypox has symptoms similar to those of smallpox, although they are often milder in monkeypox patients. Monkeypox usually lasts for two to four weeks, according to Center for Disease Control They usually start with these flu-like symptoms:
- muscle pain
- Back pain
- swollen lymph nodes
A few days after the original symptoms appear, a person will develop a rash that begins on the face and spreads to other areas of the body, says the CDC. (However, Dr. Russo points out, some people who have recently had monkeypox have developed a rash that is limited only to the genital area.) The rash usually goes through different stages before it goes away. These include:
- macules (flat discolored bumps)
- papules (a raised area of skin)
- vesicles (blisters)
- Pustules (small bumps that contain pus)
- crusts (dry, scaly bumps)
How to protect yourself from monkeypox
In general, experts say most people don’t have to worry about monkeypox just yet. “The threat of monkeypox from this outbreak is low for the general public,” Dr. Adalja says. “If there are people who are at risk because of their sexual activities, they should be aware of the fact that it is spreading within a sexual network and be aware of whether or not anyone around has pests consistent with monkeypox.”
Dr. Russo also recommends avoiding “close intimate contact” with someone who has symptoms of monkeypox or who you know has been in contact with someone who has monkeypox. “It takes a lot of exposure to get it,” he says. “It’s not something you’d pick up if you passed someone on the street.”
This article is accurate to the time of publication. However, some information may have changed since its last update. While we aim to keep all of our stories updated, please visit the online resources provided by Center for Disease Control And the Who is the To stay informed of the latest news. Always speak to your doctor for professional medical advice.
Corinne Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual and relationship health, and lifestyle trends, with work emerging in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more. She earned her master’s degree from American University, lives on the beach, and hopes to own a cup of tea and a taco truck one day.