BALTIMORE – What is monkeypox and how is it spread?
With more than 100 cases here in Maryland, we’re digging deeper to understand them better and to better talk about monkeypox.
With a limited supply of vaccines, understanding how monkeypox spreads and preventing infection is important, doctors say.
“Monkeypox spreads through a variety of methods,” said Dr. Matthew Hamill, assistant professor of infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “The most common method of transmission is close skin contact, where someone is in close contact with a person with monkeypox infection.”
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dr Hamill added that it can also be spread on bedding and when handling objects that a person infected with the virus has touched.
At the moment Dr. Hamill that the data suggests that intimate contact is the primary reason for community spread in the United States.
“The current epidemiology of monkeypox in the United States,” said Dr. Hamill. “And I’m emphasizing right now, because things may well be changing, that the vast majority of people who are diagnosed with monkeypox are men who have sex with other men, and the route of exposure during contact is through tight skin to-skin contact is intimate or sexual activity.”
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While it’s important to reduce the further spread of the virus, doctors also want to make sure people who may have contracted monkeypox seek treatment.
Part of it, said Dr. Hamill, reduce the stigma.
“We know from other conditions that stigma is a barrier to access, testing, treatment and care,” said Dr. Hamill. “To be honest, what monkeypox is is the fact that anyone, regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, anyone, anyone, can get monkeypox infection.”
Cleo Manango, the CEO of the Pride Center of Maryland, has actually worked with health organizations to keep stigmatizing language out of health news campaigns.
“This is not necessarily a sexually transmitted virus,” Manango said. “A hug, a touch can transform this virus or transmit this virus, I should say. So you have to be really careful.”
The Pride Center has been working with the CDC and local health authorities in some initial consultations on how to work on messaging.
But in the meantime, Dr. Hamill that there is still an ongoing pandemic that we cannot yet get behind.
“I also want to point out that in the US, I think about 400 to 450 people die from COVID-19 every day, and I think that’s really sobering,” said Dr. Hamill. “And it offers just one, you know, one important contrast. COVID-19 is far more deadly than monkeypox.”