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Monkeypox: What you need to know about the spread, vaccines, and more

  • / Updated:
  • Abbi Aruck 

How does Monkeypox spread, and do I need the vaccine for it?

Keep reading information on Monkeypox transmission, vaccines, positive cases, and the rate of the spread.

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How does Monkeypox spread?

Transmission of the Monkeypox virus typically begins with a rash. A Monkeypox rash will develop into fluid-filled pustules that eventually scab over and fall off. According to the CDC, the infection is spread by close, skin-to-skin contact. Common methods of transmission include:

  • Direct contact with the rash, scabs, or body fluids of someone with the infection.
  • Using clothing, bedding, towels, or other fabrics, objects, or surfaces, that someone with monkeypox has been using.
  • Contact with respiratory secretions.

Intimate contact such as sexual activity, hugging, massaging, kissing and prolonged face-to-face contact can also transmit the infection. Someone with Monkeypox can spread the virus from the time symptoms start until the rash has healed completely. In addition to the rash, you may experience flu-like symptoms that usually last between two and four weeks.

Some things are still unknown

The CDC does not have clear information on how often Monkeypox is transmitted through respiratory secretions, semen, vaginal fluids, urine or feces, or if the virus can be spread when someone has no symptoms.

In some parts of the country, wastewater is being monitored to detect the presence of Monkeypox. However, it is not clear how reliable that information will be because it hasn’t been determined if Monkeypox is excreted in feces and urine like COVID-19.

Can children get Monkeypox?

There have been 17 reports of Monkeypox in children and adolescents 15 years old and younger. At this time, the CDC considers the risk of children getting Monkeypox as low. Schools are advised to continue “everyday operational guidance that reduces the transmission of infectious diseases.”

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Positive Monkeypox cases

A 36 year old man tested positive for Monkeypox after visiting Spain in June. Nine days after, he started to develop symptoms such as fever, sore throat, fatigue, and headaches. Early in July he tested positive for COVID-19, despite being vaccinated. Soon after the positive test, he began to develop a painful rash on his arm. The rash eventually developed into small blisters all over his body. He was moved to the infectious disease unit where he tested positive for Monkeypox.

The patient informed the doctors that he had also contracted HIV on his recent trip after having unprotected sex. After receiving this information, doctors began treatment for that as well.

It is uncommon for patients to be co-infected with more than one virus. However, the Monkeypox virus and COVID-19 tend to occur simultaneously as they share similar flu-like symptoms.

In Harris County, Texas, an adult with severe illnesses that was presumed positive for Monkeypox has died. The cause of death is unknown at this time but health officials are working to see if Monkeypox played a role in their death. The information has been shared in order to keep transparency and avoid misinformation.

The most effective way to fight the virus, is with the vaccine. The Harris Health System and the Texas Department of State Health Services hope to administer the vaccine to as many eligible people as quickly as possible.

Strategy shift for administering the Monkeypox vaccine

Most parts of the US that have high rates of Monkeypox have shifted their vaccination strategy. The switch has been made to an intradermal approach and the reported results vary. The intradermal approach has allowed distribution sites to stretch their vaccine supply. This method should allow for five small does to be extracted from one vile. However, many have reported that they can only get four per vile.

About 75% of jurisdictions in the US have transitioned to this method and the rest have started or are heading in that direction.

In August, the FDA granted authorization for intradermal vaccination. This means that it is between the layers of the skin, rather than subcutaneously, or in the fatty layer below the skin– which is the typical method.

Switching to this method has made the vaccine available to more people– but it does require five does.

The spread seems to be slowing

Vaccines and community outreach efforts have been effective in leading to a decline in Monkeypox cases in New York City. In San Francisco, water samples have confirmed that the concentration of Monkeypox has stabilized in recent weeks. In Europe, the rate of new cases also seems to be on the decline.

Since May, 47,600 monkeypox cases have been reported in 99 countries. That includes 47,200 cases in 92 countries that haven’t historically reported the virus.

The US has reported the most cases, with more than 17,400. Spain reported 6,400, Brazil with 4,000 and France, Germany, and the U.K. with more than 3,000. Other countries have reported 1,300 cases or less.

In the US, California has the most reported cases, reaching nearly 3,300. New York follows closely behind with about 3,100 reported Monkeypox cases. Florida has reported 1,700, Texas has nearly 1,500, Georgia has 1,300, and Illinois has reported 1,000. Other states have reported less than 500 cases.

The World Health Organization announced that the number of new cases worldwide has decreased by 21% between August 15 and 21– after four consecutive weeks of increases.

Public health officials are concerned with vaccinating those who have yet to receive it. This is especially important for those in high-risk communities, college students on campus, and at-risk people in rural areas who may be exposed.

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