The Department of Health separates facts and fiction about monkeypox

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus, which belongs to the same family of viruses that cause smallpox, but is much milder. There are currently 22 cases in the state, over 15,000 nationally and over 43,000 globally. As with any new disease affecting our state, we at the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) want to separate fact from fiction so residents can make informed choices to protect themselves.

Symptoms of monkeypox can include fever, chills, headache, body aches and back pain, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes. The best indicator that this is NOT another infection is a rash that may look like pimples or blisters that appear on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, such as the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus. Some people get the rash before symptoms or just the rash. Although there have been no deaths in the United States, monkeypox is still something we must avoid and prevent.

Monkeypox is spread from person to person through close, personal, and often skin-to-skin contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids. It can also be spread through respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact such as kissing, cuddling, and sex. Anyone who is in close personal contact with a person infected with monkeypox can catch it and should take steps to protect themselves.

While monkeypox is spreading in the United States, we should remember that the risk of contracting monkeypox for most people is low and we don’t have to clean our groceries or doorknobs like we did at the beginning of the year. COVID-19 pandemic. Some have noticed many of the earliest cases among gay and bisexual men, but we have already seen infectious diseases move between populations. Because we know that the highest risk is personal and close contact, including intimate and sexual activities, we can all take precautions.

As the number of our cases is low at this time, we have the opportunity, as a community, to help prevent the spread of monkeypox. There are three ways to do this:

1. Prevention behaviors: Since monkeypox is mainly transmitted by contact, you must come into close physical contact with monkeypox lesions or objects that have touched monkeypox lesions. Therefore, ways to avoid contracting monkeypox include: A.) Avoiding skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that resembles monkeypox, B.) Avoiding contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used and C.) Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face.

2. Take the test: If you have a rash that looks like monkeypox, get tested right away. Tests are becoming increasingly widely available in healthcare facilities and can also be performed at DOH public health offices. The Monkeypox test is free and you do not need to have proof of identity or insurance. If you test positive for monkeypox and are eligible for treatment, your provider will also be able to get you access to free treatment through the DOH.

3. Get vaccines if eligible: If you have been exposed to or are at high risk for monkeypox, a free monkeypox vaccine is available. The vaccine has few side effects other than pain at the injection site. We have seen affected communities protect themselves, their sexual partners and the people in their families by registering for the vaccine. So far, more than 1,000 people in New Mexico have already chosen to reduce their risk and have received the first of two shots.

For more information on monkeypox, visit nmhealth.org and click on the monkeypox tab in the top right corner.

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