Monkeypox outbreak: Fauci says ‘never blow away an emerging infection’

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Amid a monkeypox outbreak in the United States that has been declared a public health emergency, Anthony S. Fauci, the top infectious disease expert, said people should pay attention but not panic.

Fauci recently told WTOP News that people don’t need to change their way of life, but should monitor the situation and adjust their behavior as more information becomes available.

“You never blow away an emerging infection if you don’t know where it’s going yet,” he explained. “You pay attention to it. You follow it. Then you respond in an appropriate way.”

Monkeypox is ‘a public health emergency,’ US secretary of health declares

Monkeypox, a multi-country outbreak that has infected more than 7,500 people in the United States, is not a sexually transmitted disease but can be transmitted through close contact, spreading primarily among networks of men who have sex with men. That said, Fauci warned that the virus could spread to other populations, including children.

In fact, at least five children in the United States have contracted monkeypox in the past month — and more children may have been exposed recently in Illinois.

Illinois health authorities announced Friday that a person who works at a daycare center in Champaign County tested positive for the virus, potentially exposing between 40 and 50 others, including many children. Julie Pryde, administrator of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, wrote in a text message to The Washington Post Friday evening that several dozen children had received vaccines.

“Does that mean every parent in the country should be terrified that this will happen to their child? Of course not,” Fauci told WTOP News. “Don’t dismiss it as something we don’t need to pay attention to. But don’t panic.”

What you need to know about monkeypox symptoms, treatments, and protection?

Monkeypox is spread by close – usually skin-to-skin – contact or by contact with bodily fluids, including respiratory secretions. But a person can contract monkey pox by touching surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches or table tops, or by handling fabrics, such as clothing, bedding or towels, that have been used by someone infected with the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention.

Symptoms include a rash that may present as bumps or blisters and cause itching or pain, as well as fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and breathing problems such as sore throat, nasal congestion or cough, the CDC said.

Patients usually recover within two to four weeks.

Those who have symptoms should contact their healthcare provider. Although there is no specific treatment, people who are considered to be at high risk for complications can receive antiviral medication, the CDC said.

Health authorities recommend avoiding close contact with people who have symptoms and practicing good hygiene practices, such as hand washing and hand disinfection. In addition, the CDC recommends that those who have had known exposure be vaccinated.

Data suggests that the smallpox vaccine is about 85 percent effective against monkeypox, according to the CDC.

Although the smallpox vaccine was no longer administered to the general public in the US in the 1970s – years after the disease was eradicated in North America – a supply was kept on hand. A new vaccine, ACAM2000, replaced the old one in the mid-2000s. In 2019, Jynneos was approved to prevent smallpox and monkeypox in high-risk adults 18 years and older. But supplies are limited.

The CDC recommends that people be vaccinated within four days of exposure to prevent infection, but there may still be benefits for up to 14 days. People in that situation should contact their doctor for advice.

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