- Monkeypox is a viral ailment that spreads predominantly through skin-to-skin contact.
- Infections have progressively increased since the first documented case in the United States in May, with the highest numbers in New York, California, and Illinois.
- Vaccination can aid in the prevention of both the original infection and the emergence of symptoms.
- Unlike many other immunizations, they are not available to everyone.
- Your primary care physician can advise you on your eligibility status.
Just as we are coming to terms with one infectious disease, another emerges monkeypox. Unfortunately, it is not limited to monkeys and apes. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims it ‘doesn’t spread easily between individuals,’ humans are still at risk.
“Monkeypox is a viral infection communicated between people by direct skin-to-skin contact and, to a lesser extent, respiratory secretions during prolonged, intimate contact,” says Brian Labus, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Public Health. However, while we were recently encouraged to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine, there hasn’t been the same push behind the monkeypox vaccination—despite the fact that case numbers continue to climb slowly.
So, should you take matters into your own hands and consider obtaining it?
The primary symptoms of monkeypox
Before we get into immunizations, let’s go through the sickness again.
“Monkeypox…causes a distinctive rash, as well as systemic symptoms like fevers, chills, and myalgias [aches and pains],” says Dr. Mireya Wessolossky, an infectious disease expert and associate professor at UMass Memorial Medical Center. “The skin eruption usually starts one to four days after the fever starts and lasts two to three weeks.” There have also been reports of rash without fever.”
Unlike COVID-19, which has claimed many lives, Labus comments that “fortunately, deaths from monkeypox are extremely rare.” According to the CDC, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, have compromised immune systems, have a history of eczema, or are under the age of eight are more vulnerable to serious illness.
Who can catch monkeypox?
The condition can affect anyone. Even though many cases are detected in males who have sex with men, “that doesn’t imply it isn’t spreading in other communities,” according to Labus.
The monkeypox vaccine is not available to everyone.
Because dosages are limited and the danger of exposure is low, the vaccine is now being administered to a small number of people. According to Dr. Martin Hirsch, editor of Wolters Kluwer’s UpToDate, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, professor of infectious disease and immunology at Harvard School of Public Health, and senior physician in infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, this is “those considered ‘high risk’ by the CDC and other health authorities.”
High-risk individuals, according to Hirsch, include:
- Those who have had sexual intercourse with someone who has monkeypox in the last 14 days;
- Those who had multiple sexual relations in a monkeypox-infested area in the prior 14 days;
- Healthcare professionals who are caring for someone who has suspected or proved monkeypox are subjected to procedures that are likely to include aerosols while without using an N95 mask or eye protection.
Individuals at high risk owing to their occupations, such as those working in clinical labs conducting monkeypox testing, should also be vaccinated, according to Labus.
Where can I get the monkeypox vaccine?
If you believe you are eligible for vaccination, contact your primary care physician.
“Vaccine availability and eligibility will be largely determined by where you reside and advice from your local health department taking into account your unique circumstances,” adds Matt Weissenbach, DrPH, senior director of clinical affairs at Wolters Kluwer Health. Those who qualify will be informed of the following steps and where they can get vaccinated in their area.
What should you do if you are not eligible?
If you are unable to acquire a monkeypox vaccination, there are other precautions you can take to protect yourself from illness. Avoid, for example, “close, skin-to-skin contact with patients who have a rash that looks like monkeypox,” according to Weissenbach. Do not handle or touch the clothing, bedding, or towels of somebody who has monkeypox, he warns.
Hirsch also advises becoming familiar with the signs and symptoms of monkeypox and remaining vigilant for them, especially since “incubation periods can last up to two weeks.” When you’re out and about, use hand sanitizer (with at least 70% alcohol content) and wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
The vaccination has some side effects.
There are now two types of vaccines available. Each acts differently to protect against the virus and has its own set of adverse effects. Hirsch observes that the Jynneos vaccination is “the recommended form” because it “does not include the replicative virus.” This immunization may cause “local reactions at the site of injection (swelling, redness, pain) or allergic reactions in certain persons,” he adds.
Wessolossky adds that those “with a serious allergy to any component of the Jynneos vaccine (gentamicin, ciprofloxacin, egg protein) should not receive [it].”Meanwhile, the MVA vaccination contains the replicative virus, which can result in more severe adverse effects. “In addition to the above-mentioned effects, [the MVA vaccination] might cause serious disease in those who are immunocompromised, pregnant, have specific heart disorders, or skin diseases such as eczema or atopic dermatitis,” Hirsch writes.
If you are concerned about the vaccination you are receiving or any potential adverse effects, speak with your healthcare provider.
The CDC is now keeping a close eye on the issue and providing regular updates on its website. Although the number of cases has grown, “the good news is that monkeypox is a self-limiting disease that isn’t as contagious as other viruses,” says Weissenbach. The FDA has also indicated that approximately a million additional vaccine doses will be arriving from Denmark soon.
While no one knows when the current outbreak will end, Weissenbach believes that “documented monkeypox outbreaks in non-endemic nations should be suppressed quite soon, particularly when adequate mitigation measures are undertaken.”
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