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Johns Hopkins doctor explains how monkeypox spreads, how to prevent it

Monkeypox Kids
Posted at 9:26 PM, Aug 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-05 23:15:46-04

BALTIMORE — What are monkeypox and how does it spread?

With more than 100 cases right here in Maryland, we’re digging deeper to better understand it and how to better talk about monkeypox.

With a limited supply of vaccines, doctors say understanding how monkeypox spreads, and to prevent infection, is important.

“Monkeypox spreads through different methods,” said Dr. Matthew Hamill, Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “The most common method that it spreads is by close skin to skin contact where somebody is in close contact with a person with monkeypox infection.”

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Dr. Hamill added that it can also be transmitted on linens and handling objects that someone infected with the virus has handled.

Right now, Dr. Hamill said the data points to intimate contact being the main driver of community spread in the United States.

“The epidemiology of monkeypox in the US right now,” said Dr. Hamill. “And I stress right now, because things may well change is that the majority the vast majority of people who are being diagnosed with monkey pox are men who have sex with other men, and the route of exposure is through close skin to skin contact during intimate or sexual activity.”

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While reducing continued spread of the virus is important, doctors also want to make sure people who might have monkeypox seek treatment.

Part of that, Dr. Hamill said, is reducing stigma.

“We know from other conditions that stigma is a barrier to people accessing, testing, and treatment and care,” said Dr. Hamill. “So being very honest about what monkeypox is the fact that anybody regardless of sex assigned at birth, gender, age, race, ethnicity, everyone, anybody can acquire monkey pox infection.”

Cleo Manango, the CEO of the Pride Center of Maryland, has actually worked with health organizations to keep stigmatizing language out of health messaging campaigns.

“This is not necessarily a sexually transmitted virus,” Manango said. “A hug, a touch, can transform this virus or transmit this virus, I should say. So, they really need to be careful.”

The Pride Center has been working with the CDC and local health departments in some initial consultations on how to work on the messaging.

But in the meantime, Dr. Hamill said there's still an ongoing pandemic that we can't yet put behind us.

“I would also point out that 400-450 people, I think, approximately each day are dying from COVID-19 in the US, and I think that is really sobering,” Dr. Hamill said. “And it just provides a, you know, an important, an important contrast. COVID-19 is much more deadly than monkeypox infection.”