The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sparked confusion earlier in June when the agency recommended that travelers wear masks to protect against the spread of monkeypox — and then promptly removed them. In an effort to prevent confusion, the agency may have inadvertently released more information about how the disease is transmitted, and what preventative measures people should take. Here, infectious disease experts focus on how much — if any — protection face masks can provide against monkeypox, and the most common modes of transmission.
How does monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox spreads in many different ways, but it is most easily transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, Andrew Noemer, PhD, assistant professor of population health and disease evidence at the University of California, Irvine, told Health magazine. The majority of the current outbreak is associated with men who have sex with men – but monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease.
While direct contact is the most common way monkeypox is spread, it is not the only way. Noemer says monkeypox lesions can form in the respiratory tract before they appear on other parts of the body. When these pests infiltrate, there is a potential for droplet transmission, especially in very close contact.
Although these droplets can spread monkeypox, the vector of infection is limited by their size and weight. The droplets are much larger than the aerosol particles we associate with COVID-19, so they are limited in the distance they can travel due to gravity, says Louis Ostrovsky, an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas. health.
In order for the infection to spread, people must be within six feet for an extended period of time in most cases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, monkeypox can also be spread through touching items, such as clothing and bedding, that have also come into contact with monkeypox lesions or body fluids. Pregnant women can also pass the virus to their baby through the placenta.
Are masks effective against monkeypox?
According to Dr. Ostrovsky, masking is a standard operating procedure for medical professionals, but may not be necessary in a community setting.
For those who live with someone who has monkeypox, this advice changes. Because prolonged close exposure increases the potential for respiratory transmission, caregivers should consider masking — still with N95, but surgical masks may work as well — as well as limiting skin contact with an infected person.
“I will hide, just as I would in the case of COVID,” Neumer said, adding that the most effective preventive measures include frequently washing bedding and clothing worn by infected people, disinfecting work surfaces, and cleaning toilets. Recent cases have shown more concentrated lesions around the anal and genital area, so anything in the bathroom may need additional sanitation.
How to protect from monkeypox?
As the number of monkeypox cases continues to rise in the United States, health officials are urging awareness — but not panic — regarding the disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), anyone who develops a rash that appears to have monkeypox—small blisters or pimples—should contact their health care provider, even if they are not aware of any close contact with another infected person. Read more about Asthma allergy.
To further avoid infection with monkeypox, people should avoid contact with anyone who may have the virus, as well as any materials or surfaces they may have touched. It is also important to practice good hygiene – washing hands and cleaning surfaces – and isolate from or wear personal protective equipment around infected people.
Since the highest concentration of monkeypox cases today is among men who have sex with men—even though monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease—the CDC has also issued guidelines for safer sexual practices during the monkey pox case, including virtual sex and limiting the number of partners to help reduce spread.
Although monkeypox is usually self-limiting—meaning it can clear up on its own—the disease is still considered contagious until the monkeypox lesions and crusts have completely healed, and a new layer of skin has formed over the affected areas. The CDC said this could take about two to four weeks—and during this time You should avoid contact and sharing items.