Monkeypox update

 

Updated on July 26, 2022

Published on behalf of the University’s Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases (ACCD)

The University’s ACCD and Environmental Health & Safety Department (EH&S) are monitoring the monkeypox outbreak and developing guidance for the University community in coordination with our local public health agency representatives. Information will be updated as the outbreak evolves, and as additional University-specific guidance is published. UW Medicine medical facility personnel follow UW Medicine policies and procedures.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Washington State Department of Health, and local health departments are tracking an outbreak of monkeypox in the United States. Locally, infections have been reported in KingPierce, Snohomish and additional counties. As of July 25, 2022, 92 people in Washington state have tested positive and we expect the number of infections to increase.

On July 23, the World Health Organization declared the current global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern. Additional international coordination and response measures are being implemented to help limit the spread.

 What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that has not often been seen in the United States. It can cause a rash that looks like bumps, blisters or ulcers. Some people have flu-like illness before the rash develops. Most people recover in 2–4 weeks, but the disease can be serious, especially for children and people who are immune compromised or pregnant.

How can monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox is usually spread from one person to another through close contact (often skin-to skin).

To date, the majority of patients diagnosed with monkeypox have been among men who reported sexual or close intimate contact with other men, sometimes with anonymous or multiple partners.

Anyone who has high-risk contact with a person with monkeypox can be infected, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Routes of transmission include:

  • Direct physical contact with monkeypox rash, sores, or scabs from a person with monkeypox. CDC believes this is currently the most common way that monkeypox is spreading in the U.S.
  • During sex through skin-to-skin and other intimate sexual contact
  • Contact with objects, fabrics (e.g., clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox
  • Through kissing and other face-to-face contact due to contact with respiratory droplets or oral fluids (saliva)

What are symptoms of monkeypox?

The illness can begin with flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, back and muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and general exhaustion, followed by a rash (usually painful) that can look like pimples or blisters.

  • Symptoms usually start within two weeks of exposure to the virus but can start up to three weeks later.
  • Within 1-3 days of symptoms beginning, people usually develop a rash or sores.
  • The sores might be located on or near the genitals or anus, but sometimes occur in other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or in the mouth. Sores often go through several stages before healing, which takes about three weeks.
  • An individual isn’t considered contagious until symptoms appear; they remain contagious until all sores have healed, a new layer of skin is formed, and scabs have fallen off.

What to do if you experience symptoms?

  • Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you develop a new, unexplained rash or lesions on any part of the body or if you think you have been exposed. They can help get you access to the appropriate testing, if needed.
  • Avoid sex or other close, intimate contact with others until you have been evaluated.
  • Avoid gatherings, especially if they involve close, personal, skin-to-skin contact or prolonged face-to-face contact.
  • Talk to your partner(s) about any recent illness and be aware of new or unexplained sores or rashes on your body or your partner’s body, including rashes on the genitals and anus.

What to do if your healthcare provider suspects or confirms you have monkeypox infection?

Isolate at home until the rash has fully resolved, the scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed. This is when you are no longer contagious to others. Follow the CDC monkeypox isolation guidelines. In addition, follow any additional guidelines provided by your healthcare provider. 

How can you reduce your risk and prevent spread?

Here are some things to consider to decrease your risk:

  • Avoid close contact (including sexual contact) with people who are sick or have a rash and their household/contaminated items.
  • Decrease the number of sex and intimate contact partners.
  • Do not go to places like bathhouses or other public sex venues. 
  • Avoid gatherings where people wear minimal clothing and have direct, intimate, skin-to-skin contact.
    • For those who attend these events or venues, avoid coming into contact with rashes or sores you see on others and minimize skin-to-skin contact when possible.

Settings and events where individuals do not have skin-to-skin contact are generally low risk (e.g., classrooms and offices). However, if attending an event, please be mindful of activities (e.g., kissing, sharing drinks and eating utensils) that might increase the risk for spreading monkeypox.

Is there a monkeypox vaccine?

When properly administered before or after a recent exposure, vaccines can be effective tools at protecting people against monkeypox illness and can make it less severe after exposure. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have questions about getting vaccinated against monkeypox.

Supplies of the monkeypox vaccine are currently limited, both locally and nationally. Many health jurisdictions are prioritizing vaccination to those who are at high risk for infection. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced an enhanced strategy to vaccinate and protect at-risk individuals from monkeypox.

King County has a very limited supply of monkeypox vaccine. Supplies are expected to increase later this summer and this fall. Visit the Public Health – Seattle & King County Monkeypox vaccine Q&A page for more information.

Pierce County is working with Washington State Department of Health to develop their vaccine strategy. Visit the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department monkeypox website for more information.

When should I notify the University of suspect/confirmed monkeypox?

While most individuals will not need to notify the University if they have monkeypox, the following exceptions may apply:

  • Students in University Residence Halls: If a healthcare provider suspects or confirms monkeypox infection, notify covidehc@uw.edu for isolation guidance to limit spread.
  • If units, personnel, and students have questions or concerns about potential exposure to monkeypox at a University setting or due to University work or instructional activities, please contact covidehc@uw.edu.  
  • Personnel with questions about leave and accommodations needed while they are isolating can contact their supervisor or a human resources/academic human resources consultant.  
  • Students may choose to contact their instructors to make up course work when isolating at home.

More information

Visit the Washington stateKingPierce, and Snohomish health department websites or the CDC U.S. Monkeypox Outbreak 2022 webpage for more information.

As this is a newer outbreak, public health entities nationally and internationally are still learning about the behaviors that may put people at increased risk and we will continue to share information with the community as we learn more.

Decreasing risk of stigma

The UW Advisory Committee on Communicable Diseases is committed to informing the UW community about health issues that may affect them. We recognize that there is risk for stigma or discrimination when communicating about a new disease outbreak. We all have a responsibility to call out any stigmatizing words or actions related to monkeypox virus and instead, share factual information so that people can make the best decisions for their health and the health of our community.