Study: Monkeypox Spread to Pets Possible but Preventable

Monkeypox has been circulating since May 2022 in the US, causing a great deal of concern about the possibility of contracting the infection through routine activities. However, the human immune system is remarkably resilient, providing everyday defense against the millions of pathogens present in our natural world. Our skin and mucus membranes are lined with generalist and specialist defenders, ready to identify and contain viruses, bacteria and fungi which could cause harm.

Taking common sense precautions will help reduce the spread of illness, such as staying home when sick and handwashing. It is also helpful to understand how monkeypox is spread and whether certain precautions are important during activities like going to the gym and taking public transit.

How long does it take to get monkeypox after exposure?

The time between exposure and the onset of symptoms is the incubation period. For monkeypox, the incubation period is between 3 and 17 days but the median is 7 days according to a recent New England Journal of Medicine study which gathered data from 16 countries on the current outbreak.

Does washing and disinfecting hands protect from getting monkeypox?

Monkeypox is spread through close personal, skin-to-skin contact with the rash (also called lesions), scabs or body fluids of a person who has the illness. Handwashing with soap and water or using hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol is important after contact with a lesion or the bedding or clothes used by a person with monkeypox.

Does the face mask protect from catching or passing monkeypox?

Monkeypox may be spread via respiratory droplets, but that does not appear to be the primary mode of transmission. The CDC initially suggested wearing masks during travel would be helpful, but later deleted that guidance because it caused confusion. Common-sense precautions include refraining from close personal contact with someone who is sick—such as kissing or sharing utensils, foods, drinks, toothbrushes, etc. with someone who is infected.

Do condoms prevent you from catching or passing on monkeypox?

Protection during sexual activity can prevent the transmission of monkeypox. However, be very careful during removal of condoms or gloves to prevent coming in contact with material from lesions or secretions.

Can I get monkeypox if I am not gay?

Yes, anyone can get monkeypox through close personal contact or sexual activity. In the current outbreak, 98% of cases were among gay or bisexual men and transmission is thought to have occurred through sexual contact in 95% of cases. In about a third of these cases, another sexually transmitted infection was also detected, suggesting that monkeypox is circulating along with other routine sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and should be considered as a possibility among people with a new rash illness.

Can I get monkeypox during a manicure, pedicure, piercing or tattoo procedure?

It is unlikely that monkeypox would be transmitted during these procedures provided neither person has a rash illness and uses common sense precautions such as handwashing and sterile instruments.

Can I get monkeypox if I had contact with bedding or dishes of someone with this infection? Tried on some clothing in store?

Yes, it is theoretically possible to get monkeypox from contact with soiled bedding or dishes, and several cases have been documented of nurses who contracted monkeypox from a patient. The virus can be isolated from samples collected in a patient’s room and bathroom, but for transmission to occur there must be contact with mucus membranes or broken skin.

Can a person transmit monkeypox to their pet?

Yes, a recent article in The Lancet documents suspected transmission of monkeypox from a man to his dog. The owners were both infected and symptomatic with monkeypox lesions, and the virus sequences in both owner and dog matched.

Can I get monkeypox without touching someone who has the infection?

No, it is very unlikely to contract monkeypox from a brief encounter. Scientists are still learning whether monkeypox can be transmitted by someone who has no symptoms, but as with Covid infection many people may have so few lesions that they are unaware of symptoms. In fact, in the recent report of cases from 16 countries, 64% of patients had fewer than 10 lesions and 54 patients only had 1 genital lesion.

Can I get monkeypox if I hugged and kissed someone on the cheek?

It is very unlikely to contract monkeypox by a quick greeting.

Can I get monkeypox by using public transport?

Although orthopoxviruses can remain infectious for long periods of time, this is true for other viruses as well. Hepatitis A, for example, can remain stable in the environment for months. Common-sense precautions include wiping down high-contact surfaces, such as light switches, cabinet handles, doorknobs and toilet flushing levers.

Can I get monkeypox in a gym?

It is unlikely that monkeypox would be transmitted in a gym, especially if routine cleaning is done on equipment before and after use. Normal precautions should be taken, such as not sharing towels or water bottles.

Although monkeypox is the latest virus to gain media attention, it is more difficult to transmit compared to Covid and the strain currently circulating is rarely serious. When considering various risks to health, it is important to take stock of everything we can do to prevent disease—such as staying up to date on routine immunizations—as well as improving our overall health so we are ready to fight new invaders. Taking care of our own innate immune system through sleep, hydration, nutrition and exercise puts us in a position of confidence.

For those of us getting back to better health after the pandemic, taking simple steps each day, such as adding an extra glass of water before meals, can cut down the appetite, improve digestion, and encourage healthier food choices. Physical activity improves the mood and can reduce stress, boost the metabolism and enhance endurance—and has even shown benefit in preventing serious Covid. It is never too late to step up our wellness and encourage those we love to make the same choices.

Hospital rooms occupied by patients infected with Monkeypox

Image Source: Eurosurveillance | Evidence of surface contamination in hospital rooms occupied by patients infected with monkeypox, Germany, June 2022


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