Monkeypox: What you need to know and how to stay safe

August 8, 2022 /

Monkeypox is a rare disease that is caused by the monkeypox virus and has symptoms similar to smallpox. The outbreak in the United States is typically spread through close contact with someone who has Monkeypox according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). 

According to the Kern County Public Health Department, “Monkeypox is NOT spread through casual, brief conversations or when walking by someone with monkeypox in open public settings like in a grocery store.”

While the virus is contracted through physical contact it is not a sexually transmitted infection as some believe. 

“A person does not have to be sexually active to pass or contract monkeypox. Sexual transmission via semen or vaginal fluid has not been documented,” said the Public Health Department. 

However, it can spread during intimate physical contact like during sex. Rashes and sores can appear on the genitals and in the mouth, which can contribute to transmission during sexual contact. 

Two-thirds of cases in California reported have been ages 25-44 and according to the California Public Health Department majority of cases have been male. There has been growing stigmatization as many of the cases that have been reported are from the LGBTQ+ community. The Kern Public Health Department said that is not the only group that has been affected and the demographics are still changing. 

“It is important to remember that anyone can get monkeypox and that the demographic is still changing. Household contacts have been infected and there have been exposures in healthcare workers who were not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment,” said the Public Health Department. 

To avoid contracting the virus the Kern Public Health Department suggests wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves when in close contact with someone that has symptoms such as sores or rashes, avoiding contaminated materials, and practicing good hygiene. 

Vaccines are also available in Kern County and are recommended as a pre-exposure for high-risk occupations such as; laboratorians who test for monkeypox or orthopoxvirus, laboratorians performing research around monkeypox or orthopoxvirus, and certain healthcare and public health response workers. Post-exposure is for those who have had close contact or were somewhere where Monkeypox was identified. 

“Monkeypox vaccine can also be used for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) of close contacts to a monkeypox case,” said the Kern Public Health Department, “ Expanded PEP (PEP++) includes persons who are not a known, named contact to a case, but who may have been at a location where monkeypox cases have been identified or in a circumstance that puts them at high risk of a Monkeypox infection. With increasing vaccine availability, we have been able to expand into PEP++ locally.”

According to the Kern Public Health Department, Monkeypox does not have a therapeutic effect and is not recommended for those with a current infection. If someone has Monkeypox they should see their healthcare provider for an assessment according to the health department. 

Currently, there is only one type of vaccine available in California for Monkeypox, Jynneos, which is a live, non-replicating vaccine that stimulates the immune response.  

According to the CDC, the identified Monkeypox virus in this outbreak is rarely fatal. 

“Over 99% of people who get this form of the disease are likely to survive. However, people with weakened immune systems, children under 8 years of age, people with a history of eczema, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be more likely to get seriously ill or die,” according to the CDC website

Governor Newsome declared a state of emergency due to Monkeypox. This helps health departments request more resources for helping with Monkeypox. 

“This can include staffing for monkeypox contact training or vaccination as well as technical and logistical support. It also broadens the scope of practice for some healthcare providers (e.g. emergency medical personnel are permitted to administer monkeypox vaccine),” said the Kern Public Health Department.   

Advice from the health department on ways to prevent the spread of Monkeypox, include:  

  • Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) including gloves and masks if in close physical contact with someone with symptoms of monkeypox like sores or rashes. 
  • Avoid contact with materials contaminated with the virus, such as clothes, towels, and bedding that have been in contact with an infected person’s sores.   
  • Practice good hand hygiene. 

“While the risk to the general public remains low, it is important to remember that anyone can get a monkeypox virus infection,” said the Kern Public Health Department. “ If you think you may have been in close contact with someone with monkeypox, watch for symptoms and contact your healthcare provider to be assessed if symptoms develop.” 

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JaNell Gore

Ja'Nell Gore is a student at Cal State Bakersfield. In addition to writing for Kern Sol News she is a poet who loves any chance she has to perform and be with her community.