With monkeypox in the news, we turned to Kenneth Alexander, M.D., Ph.D., a UCF College of Medicine professor and chief of Infectious Diseases at Nemours Children’s Health, for the information you should know.
Monkeypox virus causes fever, swollen lymph nodes and painful blister-like lesions (pox) on the skin and mucous membranes. While its origins are unknown, the natural host of the monkeypox virus is probably Central African rodents. Human cases of monkeypox are rare and have historically resulted from animal-to-human transmission. In 2017, public health officials found evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, which occurred through intimate and household contact.
Monkeypox lesions often appear on the hands, face, mouth, and anogenital region. The lesions are fluid- or pus-filled and painful (unlike moderate acne, which is painless).
Monkeypox is less infectious than COVID-19 or influenza. Monkeypox spreads most readily through direct contact with monkeypox lesions and infected body fluids. Direct contact typically occurs in household settings, and between intimate partners, including kissing, hugging, prolonged face-to-face contact and sexual contact. Transmission can also occur from contact with shared unwashed eating utensils, bedding, towels and personal items. You will not catch monkeypox at the grocery store, riding public transportation, or walking by someone who just sneezed or coughed.
So far, the U.S. has about 13,000 cases of monkeypox. Almost all transmissions have occurred by intimate or household contact. Florida has about 1,300, including seven children who live in homes where an adult had the virus.
Anyone can get monkeypox. So how do you protect yourself? Here are Alexander’s recommendations:
- Avoid intimate contact with anyone who has lesions.
- Ask any intimate partner about possible exposures to monkeypox.
- Wash your hands often.
- Do not share utensils, towels or bed coverings with anyone with a rash.
- Practice safe sex, including condom use.
- Get vaccinated if you are in a high-risk group. To date, the people at highest risk are men who have sex with men, people who public health officials have identified as a contact of someone with monkeypox, people who are aware that one of their sexual partners in the past two weeks has been diagnosed with monkeypox and people who had multiple sexual partners in the past two weeks in an area with known monkeypox (Free vaccines can be scheduled here)
- Contact your primary healthcare provider if you think you have monkeypox or may have been exposed. For students, that may be Student Health Services. Call 407-823-2701 and request a telehealth appointment for further evaluation.
- For more information, visit the CDC or the Florida Department of Health (Monkeypox | Florida Department of Health (floridahealth.gov)