Concern over monkeypox is gaining, especially in areas of New York still reeling from COVID-19. But just how likely is it that you'll get infected?

How common is monkeypox?

First of all, it's important to understand that monkeypox does not normally occur in the United States. The disease was first discovered in a human back in 1970. Since then, monkeypox has primarily been diagnosed in areas of West Africa, with a majority of them in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Occasionally, outbreaks do occur in other countries. Back in 2003, there were almost 50 cases of the disease in the midwest linked to pet prairie dogs imported from Ghana. All of those infections were from people who had direct contact with infected animals.

How deadly is monkeypox?

Most cases of monkeypox are mild. The West African strain of monkeypox, which appears to be the one responsible for cases being reported around the world, is the least fatal, with just about 1% of infected people dying. A stronger strain of the disease found in Central Africa has been reported to have a 10% mortality rate according to the World Health Organization. Although there's no cure for monkeypox, the smallpox vaccine has been proven to be very effective in preventing it, and the United States already has enough doses in storage for every citizen.

Monkey Pox Lesions
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How do you catch monkeypox?

Unlike COVID-19, monkeypox is not transmitted as easily through the air. Person-to-person transmission needs prolonged intimate contact. The disease causes a rash with lesions that transmit the virus from skin to skin. It can also be transmitted through body fluids and large respiratory droplets that can't travel nearly as far as the aerosol droplets that harbor the COVID-19 virus. Sharing used bedding that has come in contact with lesions from an infected person is also believed to be a way to contract the disease.

Is monkeypox in New York?

A resident of New York City recently tested positive for the monkeypox virus. That is the closest case known. It's unclear how the individual contracted the disease. Health experts expect more cases to pop up, but as of now, it's not considered a threat.

How can I avoid monkeypox?

The CDC shared five ways you can prevent being infected with monkeypox.

  • Avoid contact with animals that could harbor the virus (including animals that are sick or that have been found dead in areas where monkeypox occurs).
  • Avoid contact with any materials, such as bedding, that have been in contact with a sick animal.
  • Isolate infected patients from others who could be at risk for infection.
  • Practice good hand hygiene after contact with infected animals or humans. For example, washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for patients.

Mask use is not considered an effective way to stop the spread of monkeypox.

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