Department of Health separates monkeypox fact from fiction

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus, which belongs to the same family of viruses that cause smallpox, but is much milder. There are currently 22 cases in the state, more than 15,000 nationwide and more than 43,000 worldwide. As with any new disease affecting our state, we at the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) want to separate fact from fiction so residents can make informed choices to protect themselves.

Symptoms of monkeypox can include fever, chills, headache, muscle and back pain, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes. The best indicator that it is NOT another infection is a rash that may look like pimples or blisters that appear on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body , such as the hands, feet, chest, genitals or anus. Some people have the rash before the symptoms, or just the rash. Although there have been no deaths in the United States, monkeypox is still something we need to avoid and prevent.

Monkeypox is spread from person to person through close, personal, and often skin-to-skin contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids. It can also be spread through respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact such as kissing, hugging, and sex. Anyone in close, personal contact with someone infected with monkeypox can catch it and should take steps to protect themselves.

As monkeypox spreads across the United States, we must remember that the risk of contracting monkeypox for most people is low and we don’t have to wipe our groceries or doorknobs like we have. made at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have noted a lot of early cases in gay and bisexual men, but we’ve seen before that infectious diseases move among populations. Since we know the highest risk is in close personal contact, including intimate and sexual activity, we can all take precautions.

As our case count is currently low, we have the opportunity as a community to help prevent the spread of monkeypox. There are three ways to do this:

1. Prevention behaviors: Since monkeypox is mainly transmitted by contact, you should come into close physical contact with monkeypox lesions or objects that have touched monkeypox lesions. Therefore, ways to avoid getting monkeypox include: A.) Avoiding skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox, B.) Avoiding contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used, and C. ) Wash hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or to touch their face.

2. Get tested: If you have a rash that looks like monkeypox, get tested immediately. Testing is becoming more widely available in health care settings and can also be done at DOH public health offices. The Monkeypox test is free and you don’t need to have any ID or insurance. If you test positive for monkeypox and you are eligible for treatment, your provider may also be able to provide you with access to free treatment through the DOH.

3. Get vaccinated if you are eligible: If you have been exposed to monkeypox or are at high risk of contracting monkeypox, a free monkeypox vaccine is available. The vaccine has few side effects other than pain at the injection site. We have seen affected communities protect themselves, their sexual partners and their household members by registering for the vaccine. So far, more than 1,000 people in New Mexico have already chosen to reduce their risk and have received their first of two vaccines.

For more information on monkeypox, visit nmhealth.org and click on the monkeypox tab in the upper right corner.

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