Monkeypox: Risks

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Risk of spreading monkeypox

Monkeypox has rarely been seen outside of Africa. However, there have been recent cases of monkeypox in a number of countries where it is not usually seen, including Canada.

In the current outbreak, there has been transmission from person to person in Canada.

At this time, infections have been limited to spread between intimate partners, or between people who are living in the same household. Although the risk of monkeypox infection in the general population is unknown, it is lower than in the groups identified above, based on limited evidence. Having multiple sexual partners may increase your overall risk of being exposed to a person with monkeypox infection.

Current evidence suggests that transmission of the virus from someone who has no symptoms (asymptomatic spread) is extremely uncommon. The exact way the virus spreads is not completely known at this time, but we do know that the infection can be transmitted when a person has close direct contact with another person who has the monkeypox lesions (sores) on their skin.

It can also be transmitted when a person comes into contact with bedding, sheets or clothing that has the virus on it from the skin rash of an infected person.

If you have a rash or sores on your skin, fever or swollen lymph nodes, talk to your health care provider and let them know if you have had sexual activity or close personal contact with others in the last 21 days.

If you have been told that you have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox or you develop symptoms, you can contact your local public health unit and they will give you instructions on what to do next.It is recommended that you monitor yourself for symptoms. If you develop symptoms, contact your health care provider who will assess you and determine if you need a test to diagnose monkeypox.

Avoid any direct touching of other people, cover all sores with bandages or clothing, wear a mask while you have any symptoms, and follow isolation instructions provided by your local public health authority.

The investigation into cases of monkeypox in Canada is evolving and information will be updated as it becomes available.

How monkeypox spreads

Monkeypox spreads in 3 ways:

Animal to human

In the wild, rodents are thought to be the main sources of the monkeypox virus, such as:

Other carriers include primates, such as monkeys.

In the past, the virus may have been transmitted to North American species, such as prairie dogs, when these animals from Africa were imported into the U.S.

The virus is usually spread from an infected animal to a human through direct contact such as a bite, scratch or lick.

Humans may also become infected if they:

Person to person

Monkeypox can spread from person to person through close contact, including in the following ways:

It is thought that respiratory droplets may transmit monkeypox virus, but this is not well understood at this time.

An infected pregnant person may also pass on the virus to their developing fetus through the placenta.

This is an evolving investigation. These and other potential modes of transmission are being explored, as well as the possibility of asymptomatic or atypical infection presentations.

Contaminated objects

People may also become infected by coming into direct contact with contaminated clothing or linens, such as bedding and towels, or by sharing personal objects used by an infected person.

Preventing the spread of monkeypox

As with any communicable disease, following basic individual public health measures can help prevent you from getting or spreading an infection. This includes measures like:

You can further reduce your risk of becoming infected with monkeypox by avoiding close physical contact, including sexual contact, with an individual who is suspected or confirmed to have monkeypox.

If you have to be physically close to someone who is suspected or confirmed to have monkeypox, you should both wear well-fitting medical masks. This is especially important if the individual is coughing or has lesions in their mouth.

If direct physical contact is required, the person who is infected should have all lesions covered with clothing or bandages.

You should also:

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