WHO declares 2022 monkeypox outbreak a health emergency

By Regence
July 28, 2022
Monkeypox test

How to prevent the spread of monkeypox and treat an infection

You’ve probably heard about monkeypox in the news. On July 23, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the 2022 monkeypox outbreak a health emergency of international concern, which allows the agency to start enhanced coordination and sharing of resources and information among nations.

The risk to the general public is low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Monkeypox is not as transmissible as COVID-19, does not typically cause severe disease, and there are vaccines available to guard against infection.

If you have questions or concerns about monkeypox and your personal health, it’s best to work with your primary care provider. Understanding what the virus is and isn’t, as well as how it’s transmitted and treated, may also be helpful.

Monkeypox is similar to smallpox but less severe. It’s in the same family of viruses as smallpox, though monkeypox does not result in illness as severe as smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms appear seven to 14 days after exposure and typically last two to four weeks. This can include fever, headache, chills, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, exhaustion and a rash on the face, inside the mouth, or on other parts of the body that can look like pimples or blisters. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor about getting tested. It’s important to note that the strain of monkeypox in the U.S. is rarely fatal, and the virus itself is not related to chickenpox.

The monkeypox virus is spread mostly through close contact. This includes direct skin-to-skin contact with an infectious rash, as well as through respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact or sexual contact. Pregnant people can spread the virus to the fetus through the placenta.

It’s also possible to contract the virus by touching bedding, towels or clothing used by someone who is infected. Lastly, a person can contract monkeypox by being bitten or scratched by an infected animal or by eating animals that are infected with the virus. The CDC has issued a travel alert urging people to take extra precautions like handwashing and using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, particularly in countries with known cases, including the U.S. 

We have two approved vaccines for monkeypox. The two vaccines are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and recommended by the CDC. These vaccines are recommended for people who have been exposed to the monkeypox virus and those who are at higher risk of being exposed. Speak with your primary care provider or local health authority about your vaccine options. If you believe you’ve been exposed to the monkeypox virus, talk with your doctor. The test is now available to health care providers nationwide (except in New York).

What to do if you have monkeypox. Anyone who is infected should isolate at home, ideally, in a separate room or area away from other people and pets, and call their doctor or local health authority as soon as possible. The CDC recommends frequent handwashing and using alcohol-based hand sanitizer to help prevent the spread of any transmissible disease.

We’re here to help
Vaccination for monkeypox is covered for Regence members when administered by an in-network provider or pharmacy. If you don’t have a primary care provider, Regence members can search for one by signing in at regence.com or by calling us at the number on the back of their member ID card. We’re here to help.

The 2022 monkeypox outbreak is a rapidly evolving situation. Visit the CDC’s website to keep up to date on the latest expert information.