What to know about how monkeypox spreads — and whether you should wear a mask

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sparked confusion over monkeypox this week after deleting a recommendation for travelers to wear face masks to protect against the disease, a shift that highlights the different ways the virus is spreading amid the spiraling outbreak across Europe and the north. America – Here’s what to know about how the disease is transmitted.

key facts

Monkeypox does not spread easily between people and is transmitted by prolonged close contact with an infected animal or person, or objects contaminated by an infected person such as towels, clothing, or bedding.

The virus is mainly spread by direct contact with infectious monkeypox sores, scabs, or body fluids, although it can also be transmitted by respiratory droplets, a type of large particle produced when people breathe, talk, cough, or sneeze.

These respiratory droplets don’t travel very far and fall to the ground quickly, said Dr Jake Dunning, an infectious disease researcher at Oxford University. Forbes.

It is not clear whether monkeypox can also spread through aerosols – small liquid particles that can remain in the air – a mode of transmission often used to refer to an “airborne” disease.

Dunning called the term “unhelpful” as many people use it to describe different things, although he said it’s possible that short-range aerosols are involved in transmitting monkeypox.

More research would be needed to know for sure, he said, adding that he would be “surprised” if research showed long-range aerosol transmission, given current evidence that long-range transmission is unlikely.

What we don’t know

If monkeypox can be transmitted sexually. A large portion of the monkeypox cases identified in Europe and the United Kingdom were among men who considered gay, bisexual, or had sex with other men with no history of travel to parts of Africa where monkeypox is endemic. While the virus is not known to be sexually transmitted – although some degree of close physical contact can be assumed – this pattern has made scientists question whether other modes of transmission are involved and experts have cautioned against stigmatizing members of the community. Experts stress that the risk of monkeypox is not limited to men who have sex with men, and note that this pattern may be explained by other factors. This can include health officials looking for and therefore finding more cases within this group, members of the community being more proactive about their sexual health and more likely to visit clinics or spread disease through sexual and social networks. Researchers in Europe recently discovered monkeypox virus in the semen of several patients, however, suggesting that direct sexual transmission may be possible. Dunning said more research will be needed to determine if this is the case. He explained that it was not clear how the virus got into the semen or whether it was “added up” in post-ejaculation.

Peg news

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raised its monkeypox alert to Level 2 – the level below which advises against nonessential travel – updating its guidelines and encouraging travelers to “practice enhanced precautions.” The guidelines, which stressed that the risk to the general public was “low,” advised those traveling to areas where monkeypox is common to avoid contact with sick people, contaminated materials and wild animals. It also suggested that travelers wear masks to help protect against monkeypox, though the agency quietly deleted that recommendation, saying it “caused confusion.” The agency still recommends face masks, along with other protective gear, for those who may have been in close contact with a confirmed monkeypox patient and health workers caring for monkeypox patients. Dr Hugh Adler from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Dunning from Oxford said: Forbes Masks are worn in clinical settings as part of a standard set of protective equipment to deal with diseases such as monkeypox. They added that masks alone may not be useful in protecting against monkeypox given the multiple ways in which the disease can spread. Because the risk of the general public coming into contact with someone with monkeypox is low, Adler said wearing masks doesn’t make much sense. Dunning said the controversy over the masks is similar to the debates going on around the world with many other emerging infections and is “heavily affected” by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Huge number

45. That is the number of monkeypox cases confirmed in the United States as of Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 1,300 cases have been confirmed in nearly 30 countries outside Africa, according to public health data compiled by Global.Health, a team of researchers and technologists who track the outbreak. The majority of these cases are in Europe – the UK identified 321, Spain 198, Portugal 191, Germany 113 – with a notable cluster of 110 cases in Canada. More cases are suspected but not confirmed.

the shadow

Oxford’s Dunning said orthopoxviruses such as monkeypox are “strong and stable” and can live for weeks or months in fallen skin scales and dust if conditions are right. Forbes. This means that some items such as contaminated bedding or towels used by monkeypox patients could theoretically pose a prolonged infection risk. Dunning added that “clouds” of skin flakes or dust that may form when changing an infected person’s bed, for example, could pose a risk of infection, although more research is needed to examine this possibility.

What to watch

Monkeypox is gaining a foothold. Monkeypox is not a new virus and is a well-known entity that has been circulating in parts of Central and West Africa for decades. It’s usually mild and goes away on its own within a month or so – although it can be fatal and more dangerous for babies and pregnant women – and there are many useful vaccines and treatments available designed to treat smallpox, a similar virus that has been eradicated. Experts, including WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, say the sudden and unexpected appearance of monkeypox in multiple countries simultaneously suggests that the virus may have been spreading undetected in non-endemic countries for some time, although it is believed It is not clear for how long. While Tedros said it is not too late to contain the outbreak for now, he said warned There is a “real” risk that the virus will spread to non-endemic countries. It is likely that the virus will spread to wild animal populations and gain a foothold outside Africa in this way, several researchers who study how viruses spread from animals to humans. Forbes. Rodents – suspected of harboring the virus in Africa – and squirrels are the most likely animal reservoirs in the United States, University of Minnesota virologist Matthew Aliota said, and Elaine Carlin of Georgetown University said the animals should be an “important planning consideration” for officials tackling the outbreak. .

in-depth reading

Monkeypox can also be airborne (NYT)

Here are the companies that could profit from governments’ scramble to secure monkeypox treatments and vaccines (Forbes)

Monkeypox: Here’s what you need to know about rare viruses found in the US, UK and Europe (Forbes)

Monkeypox is a new global threat. African scientists know what the world is facing (science)

Monkeypox vaccination begins – can global outbreaks be contained? (temperamental nature)

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