This description, taken on May 23, 2022, contains test tubes labeled “Monkeypox Virus Positive and Negative”.
Dado Ruvik | Reuters
The latest monkeypox outbreak across the US, Europe, Australia and the Middle East have stunned health experts and the widespread outbreak has heightened anxiety.
As of Wednesday, there were 346 confirmed and suspected cases in 22 countries outside Africa, where the virus was endemic, according to their World in Data.
This marks the first community outbreak of the virus. Prior to this outbreak, cases were linked to travel to areas where the virus was endemic or where the virus was carrying animals.
Most new cases are transmitted through sex, with specific concentrations in men who have sex with other men. However, the World Health Organization has warned that anyone is at risk of contracting the virus. Children, pregnant women and those with immunity are considered particularly at risk.
“Anyone who has close contact with someone who is infectious is at risk,” said a Wednesday announcement on the WHO’s website.
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus, which is part of the same family of smallpox, but is usually less severe. Smallpox vaccines have proven to be 85% effective against monkeypox.
The WHO said on Monday it would not require a mass vaccination to deal with the escalation of cases. But, due to the speed of the outbreak and the lack of clarity on its cause, the public health agency urged people to practice good hygiene and safe sex to help control its spread.
Protecting yourself against monkeypox
While health professionals agree that the risks to the general population are low, you can take several precautions to reduce your risk of contracting the virus.
Recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the UK’s National Health Service and WHO:
- Avoid contact with people who have recently been infected or who have been infected.
- Wear a face mask if you are in close contact with someone who has symptoms.
- Use condoms and watch out for symptoms if you have recently changed sexual partners.
- Avoid contact with animals that may carry the virus. This may include sick or dead animals and especially monkeys, rodents, and pasture dogs with a history of infection.
- Practice good hand hygiene especially after contact with infected – or suspected infected – animals or humans. For example, wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Use personal protective equipment when looking after patients with confirmed or suspected monkeypox infections.
This 2003 electron microscope image available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left and spherical immature virions, derived from the human skin model of the 2003 prairie dog outbreak.
Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner | CDC through AP
Monkeypox can spread through surfaces and objects, so it is wise to avoid touching objects that are in contact with a sick man or animal.
“This is a virus that is super stable outside the human host, so it can survive on wrappers and things like that,” said former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday.
“It is best practice to wash clothes and bedsheets regularly at high temperatures,” Emmanuel Andr ವೈದ್ಯಕೀಯ, a professor of medicine at Ku Leuven University in Belgium, told CNBC on Wednesday.
However, he said he does not think the public needs to start to avoid public areas, taxis, shopping and hotels.
“Normal people need to take more precautions than we do in normal life,” he said. “If people are in a high-risk population and they know they are in a high-risk environment, they should take extra precautions.”
What to do if you catch a monkeybox
If you suspect that you may be suffering from a monkey disease, you should isolate yourself from physical contact with others and seek medical advice immediately.
Early symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle pain, swelling and back pain. Plaques and wounds usually develop on the face, hands, feet, eyes, mouth or genitals within one to five days. Those rashes are grown bumps and then turn into blisters, which can be filled with white fluid before they break and itch.
In this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handout graphic, symptoms of one of the first known cases of the Monkeypox virus are shown on the patient’s hand on May 27, 2003.
CDC | Getty Images
Many of the symptoms of the virus can be easily confused with other diseases such as chickenpox, herpes or syphilis, however, medical confirmation is important.
If you are diagnosed with a monkeypox, you need to isolate the virus until it passes. The illness is usually mild and most people recover within two to four weeks.
While medical advice varies in current countries, the UK’s National Health Service observes that you may need to stay in a specialist hospital to prevent the spread of infection to other people.
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and Pfizer, Genetic Testing Start-Up Tempus, Health-Care Tech Company, Asia Inc. And a member of the boards of the biotech company Illumina. He also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean’s “Healthy Sail Panel”.