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What to Know About Monkeypox in the United States, From Common Symptoms to How It Spreads

monkeypox virus text with graphic of arms with monkeypox

The State of the Monkeypox Outbreak in August 2022

By Michele Eggers, senior quality care coordinator

After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the last things anyone wants to be concerned with is another health emergency. Yet, here we are, as the White House declared on August 4 that monkeypox is now a public health emergency. The World Health Organization has previously declared the outbreak to be a public health emergency, and the individual states of New York, California and Illinois have declared their own states of emergency to bolster vaccination efforts.

Is Monkeypox in Wisconsin?

Monkeypox may not be new to other parts of the world, but it doesn’t typically spread throughout the United States. So, how does this affect us in Wisconsin? The state of Wisconsin may not be a current hotspot for the monkeypox outbreak, but as of August 4, a total of 23 cases presumed to be monkeypox have been confirmed in the state.

It’s worth noting that many states bordering Wisconsin have recorded higher case counts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have so far reported 571 cases in nearby Illinois, along with 65 in Michigan, 44 in Minnesota and 11 in Iowa.

How Does Monkeypox Spread?

To best protect you and your family against monkeypox, it is helpful to understand how the virus spreads. Monkeypox typically spreads through close person-to-person contact, including the following ways.

  • Direct skin-to-skin or prolonged face-to-face contact with someone who has the illness
  • Touching objects and surfaces that have been used by someone with the illness
  • Contact with respiratory secretions or body fluids from someone with the illness
  • The virus can be passed from a pregnant person to their fetus
  • Through infected animals, by being bitten or scratched, or by preparing or eating meat from an infected animal

Can My Pet Get Monkeypox?

As you might have guessed from above, yes, monkeypox can spread to people from infected animals and vice versa. According to the CDC, even such simple actions as hugging or sleeping in the same bed with your pet can be enough to spread the virus.

If you determine you’ve contracted monkeypox but have not had close contact with your pet since symptoms began, you should consider having a friend or family member take care of the animal until you’ve recovered. More likely, however, a person will have come in close contact with their pet at the onset of symptoms. In this case, the CDC recommends that monkeypox-infected individuals should not take care of their exposed pets, instead opting for another member of the house to care for the animal while isolating the pet for 21 days. If this is not possible and you must care for your pet while infected with monkeypox, be sure to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer and keep any rashes well-covered when interacting with the animal, meanwhile still avoiding close contact as much as possible.

If you suspect your pet has monkeypox, as evidenced by such symptoms as lethargy, coughing, nasal or eye secretions, pox-like lesions or lack of appetite, the CDC recommends you contact your veterinarian to have your pet tested. Use personal protective equipment when going near the animal but do not put a mask on your pet.

Symptoms of Monkeypox That You Should Watch Out For

Monkeypox symptoms typically develop within three weeks of exposure to the virus. Despite the naming similarity, monkeypox and chickenpox are not related, though they do share a common symptom in that each produces pox-like lesions on the skin. Therefore, symptoms of monkeypox to watch out for include the following.

  • A painful or itchy rash that may look like pimples or blisters
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Cough
  • Swollen lymph nodes

The illness typically lasts two to four weeks and can be contagious until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off and a fresh layer of skin has formed, so it is imperative that an infected person isolates until that point. If you experience an unexplained rash or other symptoms, avoid close contact with others until you have been assessed by a health care provider.

Should You Get the Monkeypox Vaccine?

Vaccination is recommended for people who have been exposed or are at a higher risk of exposure, such as people working in certain lab or health care settings, or people who have had multiple sexual partners in the past two weeks. Health officials emphasize the virus can infect anyone. It is recommended all individuals protect themselves from this and other viruses through frequent hand washing or frequent use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before and after eating, touching your face and using the bathroom.

[Read more: Don’t forget to also ask your personal doctor about these other crucial vaccines.]

If you have questions about how your Network Health plan can keep you healthy, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

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