The World Health Organization (WHO) made the decision two weeks ago to designate monkeypox as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) due to its spread throughout the world. To date, it has not been considered a pandemic: Although it is true that in Europe and the United States the number of cases is high, in the rest of the world the risk is moderate.
Still, summer can be a worrying time for disease transmission due to travel for vacations. This can raise concern about the possibility of getting infected during our rest period. Now, the transmission routes of this disease are known and, therefore, we can take precautionary measures to avoid contagion.
Since the beginning of this outbreak, monkeypox has spread especially among the population group of men who have sex with men (MSM). However, it is not a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), Rather, it is spread by close contact. In other words, it has occurred in this group for a circumstantial reason and, in reality, all population groups are susceptible to infection.
Here are five questions and answers to travel safely this summer:
What are the most affected areas?
Currently, the leading country in registered cases in the world is the United States —with 7,084 cases— and, behind it, Spain —with 4,577 cases, according to the latest available data—. While in the rest of the world the public health risk of monkeypox is moderate, in Europe and the United States it is considered high. After Spain, the most affected countries in Europe are Germany (2,839), the United Kingdom (2,677) and France (2,241). However, the transmission of monkeypox is not simple: it requires very close contact with an infected person.
In what situations can I get infected?
To get monkeypox, you have to have close skin-to-skin contact with an infected person where fluids from your injuries come into contact with any wound we have, although they can sometimes be imperceptible. It is also possible to get infected through contact with their clothes or bedding or even through droplets of saliva if the distance to the infected person is very short. For this reason, transmission has generally occurred most successfully in the context of sexual intercourse, where intimate contact occurs.
[Neurofibromatosis: esta es la enfermedad que la gente confunde con la viruela del mono y no es contagiosa]
Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, it has not been proven that it can be spread through semen or vaginal fluids and, therefore, using condoms does not protect against this infection. Those infected, in this sense, must quarantine until the lesions caused by the disease are completely healed and cannot transmit the disease, which usually takes around three weeks.
Can I get the disease after touching objects or sitting on a seat?
While experts say it’s possible, they also say it’s unlikely. The monkeypox virus can live on clothing fabrics because they are porous, but not so much on the rest. Glass, plastic or metal are materials in which the virus does not survive for too much time. We should not worry about touching any surface, unless we know that it has been in contact with an infected person and, especially, tissues. The contagion by sitting on seats or touching objects is very complicated and if the surfaces are washed often, less.
Clothes that have been in contact with the monkeypox patient do represent a possible transmission channel. For this reason, it is recommended that if someone in our environment suffers from the disease, be he who handles their clothes and bedding and do not shake. Plates, glasses and cutlery used for eating should be cleaned in the dishwasher at high temperatures.
Are disinfectants effective?
Yes, common disinfection products can eliminate the virus from surfaces and, in the case of hydroalcoholic gel, also from our hands. Since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic, these products have been available in many public places and they are used more frequently in the routine cleaning of these sites and also of transport. This reduces the risk of contracting the disease by sitting on transport seats or touching objects in public places.
Can there be asymptomatic patients?
There is a study conducted by the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, which found three men infected with monkeypox and had no symptoms. In any case, the experts consulted in EL ESPAÑOL explain in this article that they still it is early to know under what circumstances an asymptomatic case can occur. The three men also suffered from the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and were on antiretroviral treatment which, according to the cited article, could attenuate the symptoms of the disease. In any case, it is also explained that until now the disease most often occurs with symptoms: fever, muscle pain, swollen glands and, of course, the characteristic pustules and papules.
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