As we continue to battle the Covid-19 pandemic across the globe, another virus has New Yorkers concerned about contagion. Monkeypox, first diagnosed in New York City this past May, has significantly increased in New York, with 1,472 testing positive for the virus as of August 1, 2022.
On Saturday, NYC officials declared monkeypox a public health emergency, saying as many as 150,000 city residents could be at risk of infection. The declaration helps officials issue emergency orders under the city health code and implement measures to help slow the spread. Governor Kathy Hochul has declared it a state disaster emergency and the World Health Organization has declared monkeypox a global health emergency.
“More than one in four monkeypox cases in this country are in New York State, and we need to utilize every tool in our arsenal as we respond,” Hochul said. “It’s especially important to recognize the ways in which this outbreak is currently having a disproportionate impact on certain at-risk groups. That’s why my team and I are working around the clock to secure more vaccines, expand testing capacity and responsibly educate the public on how to stay safe during this outbreak.”
So what is monkeypox?
Also called orthopoxvirus, monkeypox is a variola virus, in the same family as smallpox, but less fatal, according to the CDC.
How is monkeypox spread?
Anyone is at risk of contracting monkeypox, which can be transmitted through direct contact with someone infected, or through secondary contact, like on clothing or objects used by an infected person, plus droplets from an infected person. Yep, all those masks and sanitizer you have are still super useful in helping to prevent the spread of monkeypox.
It is spread mainly during oral, anal and vaginal sex and other intimate contact, such as rimming, hugging, kissing, biting, cuddling and massage. The virus can spread through direct contact with a rash or sores of someone who has the virus, contact with clothing, bedding and other items used by a person with monkeypox. Experts are currently studying whether the virus can also spread through semen, saliva, feces and other body fluids.
People can spread the virus when they have symptoms. Experts are studying whether the virus can spread before symptoms start or after they end.
— nychealthy (@nycHealthy) July 22, 2022
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
Symptoms include fever, headache, chills, exhaustion, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and, perhaps most definingly, an uncomfortable rash. The rash or sores can look like pimples or blisters either all over the body or in certain parts like the face, hands or feet, as well as on or inside the mouth, genitals or anus.
How long does monkeypox last?
The illness typically lasts for two to four weeks, but symptoms may not appear until two or three weeks after exposure, meaning it’s likely New York will see many more positive cases within the next month.
How can you prevent monkeypox?
According to the NYC Department of Health, the best way to protect yourself is to avoid sex and other intimate contact with multiple or anonymous partners and/or do the following:
- Reduce your number of partners, especially those you do not know or whose recent sexual history you do not know.
- Ask your partners if they have monkeypox symptoms or feel sick. If you or your partners are sick, especially if you or they have a new or unexpected rash or sore, do not have sex or close physical contact.
- Avoid sex parties, circuit parties and other spaces where people are having sex and other intimate contact with multiple people.
- If you choose to have sex or other intimate contact while sick, cover all rashes and sores with clothing or sealed bandages. This may reduce spread from contact with the rash or sores, but other methods of transmission may still be possible.
- Since it may be possible the virus can be transmitted through semen, use latex condoms during sex.
- Do not share towels, clothing, fetish gear, sex toys or toothbrushes.
- Wash your hands, fetish gear and bedding. Sex toys should be washed after each use or sex act.
If you do contract monkeypox, avoid all close physical contact with others and avoid clubs, parties, bars and other crowded places, according to NYC’s Health Department.
How do you treat monkeypox?
While there are currently no specific monkeypox treatments, anti-virals can be used to help treat infections.
How can you get tested for monkeypox?
Monkeypox testing is available at New York healthcare providers, with testing locations listed on the NYC HealthMap.
Where can you get a monkeypox vaccine?
A monkeypox vaccine is available to help reduce the chance of contracting monkeypox or reducing the severity of infection of those exposed. You can find a vaccination appointment at vax4nyc.nyc.gov/monkeypox. Appointments can also be booked by calling 877-VAX-4NYC.
The current locations serving monkeypox vaccines are: the Bronx High School of Science Monkeypox Vaccine Site, Health + Hospitals Lincoln Monkeypox Vaccine Site; the Bushwick Educational Campus Monkeypox Vaccine Site, Science Skills Center High School Monkeypox Vaccine Site; AP Central Harlem Monkeypox Vaccine Clinic, AP Chelsea Monkeypox Vaccine Clinic; Aviation High School Monkeypox Vaccine Site, AP Corona Monkeypox Vaccine Clinic, Thomas J. McCann Woodside Monkeypox Vaccine Site; and Gotham Health / Vanderbilt Monkeypox Vaccine Site on Staten Island.
For more information visit nyc.gov/monkeypox, or for real-time updates text “MONKEYPOX” to 692-692 for English updates and “MONKEYPOXESP” to 692-692 for Spanish updates.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.