How to Avoid Mpox, According to Infectious-Disease Experts

Monkeypox Is on the Rise: What Can You Do to Stay Safe?
Getty / Tang Ming Tung / Images By Tang Ming Tung

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning about a resurgence of mpox cases, particularly during spring and summer as festival season starts to heat up. While the WHO recently ended the mpox emergency, the CDC has stated, “the outbreak is not over.”

According to the CDC, mpox, formerly known as monkeypox, is spread primarily through close, direct physical contact with mpox rash, scabs, or body fluids. It can also be spread through indirect contact, like touching fabrics and objects that were used by a person with mpox, or via exposure to respiratory secretions from a person with mpox. It’s also possible for a pregnant person to transmit the virus to their fetus through the placenta.

While the majority of people affected in the current outbreak are men who have sex with men, “anyone can get and spread monkeypox,” says infectious-disease expert Julie Myers, MD, MPH, deputy chief medical officer at MetroPlusHealth.

Unlike with the COVID-19 pandemic, we don’t need to wait for a vaccine to be developed. The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the Jynneos vaccine to fight mpox, and other basic protection protocols have also been made available by the CDC. Ahead, find the best practices and precautions to keep in mind when it comes to staying safe from mpox.

Wash Your Hands Often

Like any virus, it’s crucial to wash your hands with soap and water frequently. “Rub your hands together to create a good lather, and scrub under your nails, between your fingers, and the backs of your hands. You should wash for at least 20 seconds – humming the ‘Happy Birthday’ song from start to end twice usually does it,” Sandra Kesh, MD, deputy medical director and infectious-disease specialist at Westmed Medical Group in Purchase, NY, previously told POPSUGAR. If you’re on the go, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer – especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom.

Avoid Contact With People Who Have Mpox

The CDC recommends avoiding skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash “that looks like monkeypox.” Mpox rashes can be located on or near the genitals or anus, as well as other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth. The rash can look like pimples or blisters and usually scabs before healing.

If someone in your household tests positive for mpox, you should maintain your distance from them. “People with monkeypox should isolate themselves until the rash has fully resolved, the scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed,” Dr. Myers says. This process typically takes two to four weeks, but the timing of isolation will vary from person to person. They also should avoid touching the rash, or it can spread to other parts of the body and may delay healing.

The CDC recommends covering all parts of the rash with clothing, gloves, or bandages and wearing a mask to prevent oral and respiratory secretions from spreading. Those isolating should not share items with other people or animals, per the CDC. Make sure that items and surfaces that have come in contact with a lesion are washed, including bed linens, clothing, towels, wash cloths, drinking glasses, eating utensils, counters, and light switches.

Get Vaccinated If You’re Considered at Risk

The CDC has suggested the mpox vaccination for certain groups of people who are considered at risk. This includes people who have had a known or suspected exposure to someone with mpox, those who have had a sex partner in the past two weeks who was diagnosed with mpox, and those who work in settings where you may be exposed to mpox. The CDC also advises vaccination if you “are a gay, bisexual, or other man who has sex with men or a transgender, nonbinary, or gender-diverse person who in the past 6 months has had . . . [a] new diagnosis of one or more sexually transmitted diseases (e.g., chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis)” or “[m]ore than one sex partner.” Other at-risk groups can be found listed on the CDC’s mpox vaccination page.

The Jynneos vaccine is the one you’ve probably heard about the most. “It is a two-dose vaccine; individuals should get the second dose at least four weeks after the first dose,” Dr. Myers says. “They will start to build protection in the days and weeks after the first dose, achieving full immunity two weeks after the second dose.” The other vaccine, ACAM2000, is a single-dose vaccine that’s also available, but it can lead to adverse reactions for people with certain conditions (e.g. eczema, HIV, and more). You should talk to your healthcare provider about which option is best for you.

Follow Safety Precautions With Sexual Partners

Communication is key for any relationship, but especially during an mpox outbreak. Keep your romantic or sexual partner(s) up to date on any recent illness or unexplained rashes. If either of you have recently felt sick or have a new rash, the CDC says do not have sex and see your healthcare provider.

If mpox is confirmed, the best way to protect yourself and others is to avoid sexual intimacy including kissing, touching, and oral, anal, and vaginal sexual interactions. Avoid sharing items like towels or sex toys. If you think you might have the virus and decide to proceed with sex, consider having virtual sex (no in-person contact), masturbating together at distance (at least six feet), and reducing as much skin-to-skin contact as possible and covering areas where rash is present.

While condoms are used to protect against disease, the CDC says condoms alone are likely not enough to prevent mpox – especially if the rash is not confined to the genitals or anus.

Isolate If You’ve Been Exposed and Start Experiencing Symptoms

If you have had contact with animals or people with mpox, you should monitor symptoms for 21 days after your last exposure, according to the CDC. If symptoms develop (fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, or a new rash), you should immediately self-isolate and contact the health department for further guidance. Dr. Myers suggests checking your temperature twice daily. “If you are experiencing mpox-like symptoms, you can contact your doctor via telehealth to discuss the symptoms, testing, and vaccination options available,” Dr. Myers suggests. “A virtual exam can determine if an in-person visit is necessary.”

It may take three to four days to get ab test results. To keep others from catching mpox, you should self-isolate during that time from other family members and pets at home, says Dr. Myers. Routinely clean and disinfect items such as bed linens, clothing, towels, wash cloths, drinking glasses, or eating utensils.

Related: CDC Suggests Mpox Could Make a Comeback During Festival Season

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