This blog was written by Tavi Wolfwood, an intern in our office this summer, in response to constituent questions and concerns and our office’s prioritization of work on monkeypox and other public health concerns. Tavi is a district native, growing up in Amherst, MA. Tavi is in his fifth of a 5 year joint BA/MPH program at Yale University’s School of Public Health and is interested in policy focused on racial health equity and health justice, particularly equity in health care access and data equity, universal health care policy, and LGBTQIA+ health policy. Interns in our office take on important policy research projects like this one, and much more. Apply for an internship with our office here.
News about the recent outbreak of monkeypox, now called MPV, is traveling fast, and with it, many questions and concerns. Here’s what you need to know about it, and how to keep yourself and your community safe.
Watch this video from the CDC: 5 Things Sexually Active People Need to Know about Monkeypox/MPV
MPV is a known virus that is related to (but MUCH less deadly than) smallpox. It often begins with flu-like symptoms, followed by developing a blistering rash or sores that may be located on the genitals or anus, hands, feet, chest, or face. MPV is spread primarily through close, personal contact, including:
- Direct contact with MPV rash, sores, or scabs from a person with MPV. Experts indicate that this is currently the most common way that MPV is spreading in the U.S.
- Contact with objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with MPV.
- Contact with respiratory secretions, through kissing and other personal contact.
MPV is known to be transmitted through close, personal contact that happens when you have sex including:
- Oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus of a person with MPV.
- Hugging, massage, and kissing.
- Touching fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with MPV and that have not been disinfected.
While there have been previous outbreaks of MPV in the United States as recently as 2003, this outbreak is unique because it is likely a result of community spread, meaning cases cannot be traced back to a specific exposure.
The current outbreak of MPV began on May 13, 2022, and has spread across 28 countries where MPV is not usually observed. There have been 767 cases in the US as of July 11, including 32 in Massachusetts, although due to limited testing this is likely an underestimate. There have been zero deaths due to this current outbreak in any of the nations where monkeypox is not usually observed.
A large proportion of current MPV cases have been diagnosed in gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men, but the virus is NOT limited to these groups. While cases are still rare, transmission may be more likely in high-contact situations like parties and festivals where skin-to-skin contact and kissing occurs.
Here’s what we do know thanks to the Centers for Disease Control:
How can a person lower their chance of getting MPV?
To lower your chance of exposure, seek out information from trusted sources like the local health department. Consider how much close, personal, skin-to-skin contact is likely to occur at any event you plan to attend. If you feel sick or have any rashes or sores, do not attend any gathering, and see a healthcare provider.
How can a person lower their risk during sex?
Talk to your partner about any recent illness and be aware of new or unexplained sores or rashes on your body or your partner’s body, including the genitals and anus. If you or your partner have recently been sick, currently feel sick, or have a new or an unexplained rash or sores, do not have sex and see a healthcare provider. This is always a good plan, even if MPV isn’t in your area.
If you or a partner has MPV, the best way to protect yourself and others is to not have close personal contact of any kind while you are sick, especially if you have any rashes or sores. Do not share personal items like towels or toothbrushes.
What should a person do if they have a new or unexplained rash, sores, or other symptoms?
- Avoid sex or being intimate with anyone until you have been checked out by a healthcare provider. If you don’t have a provider or health insurance, visit a public health clinic near you.
- When you see a healthcare provider, remind them that this virus is circulating in the area.
- Avoid gatherings, especially if they involve close, personal, skin-to-skin contact.
- Think about the people with whom you have had close, personal, or sexual contact within the last 21 days, including people you met through dating apps. You might be asked to share this information if you have received a MPV diagnosis, to help stop the spread.
If anything in this update is confusing or concerning, please reach out to Jo.Comerford@masenate.gov and we’ll jump to answer your questions. If we can’t answer them, we’ll bring them to HHS/DPH folks and ask for their counsel.