STAY HEALTHY DURING MALTA PRIDE

The number of monkeypox infections are on the increase locally and worldwide. Are you coming to the Malta Pride's celebrations? If so, please act responsibly: make sure you don’t get monkeypox or pass the disease on to others.

  • Stay at home if you are running a temperature or feeling feverish. Take a COVID self-test to make sure you don’t have COVID-19. If your test is negative or if you have blisters on your body, contact your GP and make an appointment for a monkeypox test at your public health service.

  • Monkeypox is transmitted by intensive skin-to-skin contact, such as kissing, making love and sex.

 

Together we can make Pride a wonderful and safe celebration.

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Monkeypox – Frequently Asked Questions (info retrieved from Deputy Prime Minister's Website)

What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is an infection from animals caused by a virus closely related to the smallpox virus. Infection is usually transmitted to humans through scratches or bites from infected animals, such as rodents or monkeys. It can also spread between people.

Where is monkeypox usually found?
Monkeypox is commonly found in central and west Africa where there are tropical rainforests and where animals that may carry the virus typically live. However, over the past few weeks an increasing number of cases of monkeypox have been identified within several European countries, as well as in the US, Canada and Australia.  

Why is this disease called monkeypox?
The disease is called monkeypox because it was first identified in colonies of monkeys kept for research in 1958.  It was only later detected in humans in 1970.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
Initial symptoms are fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes (glands), muscle aches, back pain, and low energy. This is followed by a rash, within one to three days of the start of the fever.  The rash can be flat or slightly raised, filled with clear or yellowish fluid, and can then crust, dry up and fall off. The number of lesions on one person can range from a few to several thousand. The rash tends to be concentrated on the face, palms of the hands and soles of the feet. They can also be found on the mouth, genitals and eyes.
Symptoms typically last between 2 to 4 weeks and go away on their own without treatment. 
People with monkeypox are infectious to others from the onset of fever until all lesions scab over and fall off.

What is the incubation period (the time period between exposure to an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms) of monkeypox?
The incubation period is the duration/time between contact with the infected person and the time that the first symptoms appear. The incubation period for monkeypox is between 5 and 21 days.

Can people die from monkeypox?
Monkeypox infection is usually mild and most of those who are infected recover within a few weeks without requiring any treatment.  In some individuals however, infection can lead to medical complications and even death. Newborns, children and people with underlying immune deficiencies may be at risk of more serious symptoms and death from monkeypox.
Complications from severe cases of monkeypox include skin infections, pneumonia, confusion and eye infections which can lead to loss of vision. 
The strain currently affecting individuals worldwide is a strain found in West Africa, which is known to be associated with less severe disease.

How does monkeypox spread from person to person?
People with monkeypox are infectious while they have symptoms (normally for between two and four weeks). Although person-to-person spread is not common you can catch monkeypox through close physical contact with someone who has symptoms.
The rash, bodily fluids (such as fluid, pus or blood from skin lesions) and scabs are particularly infectious.  Ulcers, lesions or sores in the mouth can also be infectious, meaning the virus can spread through saliva. The virus can also spread through large respiratory droplets.

Therefore, one become infected through:
• Contact with clothing or linens (such as bedding or towels) or objects like eating utensils/dishes used by an infected person
• Direct contact with monkeypox skin lesions or scabs
• Coughing or sneezing of an individual with a monkeypox rash

People who closely interact with someone who is infectious, including health workers, household members and sexual partners are therefore at greater risk for infection.
The virus can also spread from someone who is pregnant to the foetus from the placenta, or from an infected parent to child during or after birth through skin-to-skin contact.
It is not clear whether people who do not have symptoms can spread the disease.

Who is at risk of catching monkeypox?
Anyone who has close physical contact with someone who has symptoms of monkeypox, or with an infected animal are at highest risk of infection. 
People who were vaccinated against smallpox are likely to have some protection against monkeypox infection. However, younger people are unlikely to have been vaccinated against smallpox because smallpox vaccination stopped worldwide after smallpox became the first human disease to be eradicated in 1980. In Malta the smallpox vaccine was given until 1971.  Even though people who have been vaccinated against smallpox will have some protection against monkeypox, they also need to take precautions to protect themselves and others.
Newborns, children and people with underlying immune deficiencies may be at risk of more serious symptoms and death from monkeypox. Health workers are also at higher risk due to longer virus exposure.

How can I protect myself and others against monkeypox?
Individuals can reduce their risk of infection by limiting close and direct physical contact with people who are unwell, especially if they have suspected or confirmed monkeypox infection.   

If you do need to have physical contact with someone who has monkeypox (e.g., because you live together) the infected person should self-isolate and cover any skin lesions (e.g., by wearing clothing over the rash). Try to maintain some distance but if you are physically close to them, they should wear a surgical mask, especially if they are coughing or have lesions in their mouth. You should wear one also. Avoid skin-to-skin contact whenever possible and use disposable gloves if you have any direct contact with lesions. The infected person should handle their laundry (clothes and bedding) themselves, where possible.  Wear a mask when handling any clothes or bedding if the person cannot do it themselves.

It is always important to maintain good hand hygiene and regularly clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub, especially after contact with someone who is infected, their clothes, bed sheets, towels and other items or surfaces they have touched or that might have come into contact with their rash or respiratory secretions (e.g., utensils, dishes). 

Clothes, towels, bedsheets and eating utensils should be washed with warm water and detergent. Contaminated surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected and contaminated waste (e.g., dressings) disposed of appropriately.

Is the general public at high risk of catching monkeypox?  Is there a risk of this becoming a larger outbreak?
The overall risk for the general public and health care providers is low at this time for various reasons:
• Transmission of monkeypox requires prolonged close contact with people who are infected and have symptoms. 
• The symptoms of monkeypox, such as fever or a rash, make it easier to recognize, and cause people to seek out medical care. 
• The incubation period — the time from when a person is exposed to when that person develops symptoms — is long. Therefore, public health measures can help prevent additional cases.
Despite this the authorities are responding to this outbreak as a high priority to avoid further spread as much as possible.

Can children get monkeypox?
Children are typically more prone to have severe symptoms than adolescents and adults. The virus can also be passed to a foetus or to a new born through birth or early physical contact.

What should I do if I think I may have monkeypox?
If you think you have symptoms or have been a close contact of someone with monkeypox, contact your GP/health centre for proper advice and guidance.  It would be sensible to call your GP/health centre ahead and let them know your concerns before going to the clinic to avoid risk of spread. One should avoid using public transportation and having direct contact with others until cleared by a medical professional. 

Basic hygiene such as washing, and sanitizing hands would be beneficial to minimize spread. 

Can you get vaccinated for monkeypox now?  Is there a vaccine available for monkeypox and will it be offered to the public?
There isn’t a specific vaccine for monkeypox, but there is a vaccine against smallpox (MVA-BN, also known as Imvamune, Imvanex or Jynneos) that does offer some protection (at least 85% effective in preventing monkeypox) if given before or within a few days of exposure.  This is because the monkeypox virus is closely related to the virus that causes smallpox (orthopoxvirus). 

People who have been vaccinated against smallpox in the past will also have some protection against monkeypox. The original smallpox vaccines are no longer available to the general public, and people below the age of 50 years are unlikely to have been vaccinated.
If required, public health authorities will guide vaccination of close contacts.

What treatments are available?
Monkeypox symptoms often resolve on their own without the need for treatment, but newer antivirals may be used if necessary.  It is important to take care of the rash by letting it dry if possible or covering with a moist dressing to protect the area if needed. Avoid touching any sores in the mouth or eyes.  Mouth rinses and eye drops can be used as long as cortisone-containing products are avoided. 
In the case of individuals with severe symptoms high quality medical and nursing supporting case will be provided.  This may include the use of vaccinia immune globulin.

Does the chickenpox vaccine prevent monkeypox?
The chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus (VZV)) is different to the monkeypox and smallpox viruses (orthopoxvirus), and for this reason the chickenpox vaccine does not protect against monkeypox.

Is monkeypox a sexually transmitted infection?
Monkeypox can spread from one person to another through close physical contact, including sexual contact. It is currently not known whether monkeypox can be spread through sexual transmission routes (e.g., through semen or vaginal fluids), but direct skin-to-skin contact with lesions during sexual activities can spread the virus.

Monkeypox rashes are sometimes found on genitals and in the mouth, which is likely to contribute to transmission during sexual contact. Mouth-to-skin contact could thus cause transmission where skin or mouth lesions are present.
The risk of becoming infected with monkeypox is not limited to people who are sexually active or men who have sex with men. Anyone who has close physical contact with someone who is infectious is at risk. Anyone who has symptoms that could be monkeypox should seek advice from their doctor immediately.
As always, the public health authorities recommend observation of safe practices when one engages in sexual activity – avoid multiple sexual partners, avoid engaging in sexual activities with unknown partners and always use protection (e.g., condoms, etc).

What tests are done to confirm monkeypox infection?
A sample is taken from the rash lesions and sent to the laboratory for testing.  This test can only be done by specialists in infectious diseases in cases they strongly suspect may be showing symptoms of monkeypox.

Do positive cases need to isolate?
Positive cases need to stay in mandatory isolation for 21 days from when the swab test was carried out.  

Do close contacts need to quarantine?
Close contacts are not required to isolate as long as they do not have any symptoms.  Should they develop symptoms they are required to isolate at once and seek immediate medical advice.

Are there any travel restrictions in place because of monkeypox?
There are currently no travel restrictions in relation the monkeypox cases.
Should you be travelling overseas it is advisable to take the usual precautions with regards to prevention of infection, i.e., proper hand hygiene, avoid crowded places and avoid contact with individuals who appear unwell.

Sources:

https://www.bradfordhospitals.nhs.uk/monkeypox-cases-confirmed-in-england-plus-faqs/

https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/monkeypox

https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/questions-and-answers-about-monkeypox/​