Monkeypox Can Spread In Three Ways

Photo: WHO

Just two months after the virus landed in the US, monkeypox has been declared a national public health emergency — a déjà vu nightmare for the majority of Americans who are tired of being sick and living through unprecedented times.

Even though experts don’t expect monkeypox to be the next COVID, the virus still isn’t something you want to mess with, particularly if you’re immunocompromised, pregnant, or have certain skin conditions, like eczema. But at least this time around, there are effective treatments and vaccines available for those exposed to the virus or at risk of serious disease.

We spoke to several infectious disease experts to better understand how monkeypox spreads, what activities are riskiest at this time, and how to avoid infection as cases rise globally.

“Risk is not black and white. There’s a lot of nuance around it in general, and that’s not just unique to monkeypox,” said Dr. Aniruddha Hazra, an infectious disease doctor with the University of Chicago specializing in LGBTQ health. “This is about figuring out what you feel comfortable doing while still enjoying your life and doing the things you want to do.”

There are three ways you can catch monkeypox: direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person; touching contaminated surfaces, objects, or fabrics; and contact with respiratory secretions like mucus.

It’s still unclear whether people without symptoms can spread the virus, if urine, feces, semen, or vaginal fluids can infect others, or how much of a role respiratory secretions play in transmission.

Direct skin-to-skin contact

The dominant way to catch and spread monkeypox is by touching an infected person who has rashes, scabs, bodily fluids, or lesions on their skin, which can resemble a tiny pimple or a pus-filled bump that can be as big as the size of a marble.

An infographic shows an arm with monkeypox touched by a hand, this image is connected to a box that shows the hand washing in a sink, this image connects to graphic that shows this person is not likely to catch Monkeypox
Infection can be avoided by washing parts of the body that have briefly come into contact with the infection before it enters your body after you touch your face, mouth, nose, or genitals.Maddie Abuyuan / BuzzFeed News

But a light brush against or even a handshake with a potentially infectious person doesn’t necessarily mean you caught the virus. It takes a lot more contact than that. So far, the majority of people who have contracted the virus in the US are men who reported having sex with other men, though it’s unclear if transmission is occurring in these communities during other activities, too, like hugging, partying, etc.

The Yucatan Times
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