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Can Masks Help Prevent Monkeypox? What We Know So Far

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The illness is mostly spread through contact. However, masking can provide protection in certain circumstances.

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created confusion earlier in June when it suggested that travelers wear masks in order to guard against the spread of the monkeypox virus. It then immediately deleted it.

 

“Wear a mask,” the CDC advised in an Update on June 6, on its Travelers Health site. “Wearing a mask can help protect you from many diseases, including monkeypox.” However, within hours, the recommendation was taken down. “Late yesterday, CDC removed the mask recommendation from the monkeypox Travel Health Notice because it caused confusion,” A CDC spokesperson informed Reuters the following day.

 

However, in its attempt to stop any confusion on the subject, the government might have accidentally created more confusion about the way in which the disease spreads and the best precautions users should be taking. Here, experts from the field of infectious disease provide their opinion on the level of protection masks on faces can offer against monkeypox and which ways of transmission are most prevalent.

 

How Does Monkeypox Spread?

Monkeypox can be spread in a variety of methods, however, it’s spread the most readily through contact with skin, Andrew Noymer, Ph.D. associate professor of health for the population and disease prevention at the University of California, Irvine said to health.

A majority of current cases have been caused by men who had sexual relations with other men, but monkeypox isn’t a sexually transmitted illness. “Many of these cases were spread through intimate encounters, but that’s only because intimate encounters involve skin-to-skin contact, not because of anything exclusively sexual,” said Neymar.

 

Although direct contact is the most commonly used method for monkeypox to spread, isn’t the sole method. Neymar claims that the lesions of monkeypox may form in the respiratory tract prior to manifesting on different body organs. If the lesions leak they are at risk for transmission through droplets, particularly in close contact.

 

Although these droplets could spread monkeypox, the infection spread is restricted by their weight and size. They are larger than the aerosol particles that we are familiar with from COVID-19. As such, they are restricted in terms of how they can travel because of gravity. Luis Ostrovsky, MD who is a specialist in infectious diseases within Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas, tells Health.

 

“Droplets by their size tend to travel no more than six feet because of gravity,” stated Dr. Ostrovsky. To allow infection to be able to establish itself, people must stay in the vicinity of six feet over a long duration in most instances.

 

Based on the CDC The CDC states that monkeypox can be spread by contact with objects such as sheets and clothing that are also in contact with lesions from monkeypox and bodily fluids. People who are pregnant are also capable of transmitting the virus onto their fetus via the placenta.

 

Are Masks Effective Against Monkeypox?

In the words of Dr. Ostrovsky, masking is the standard procedure used by medical professionals, however masking may not be required in a common setting.

 

“If you’re taking care of a patient that had monkeypox we would require masking with N95s and gowns, gloves, eye protection, etc. Because again, we’re dealing with body fluids, and we may be exposed to aerosols in close proximity,” He added. “But at this point, I don’t think there’s enough evidence for requiring masking in the community for it.”

 

If you have an individual who is infected by monkeypox the advice is different. Because prolonged contact increases the risk of respiratory transmission, those caring for the patient may want to consider masking–still using an N95 mask, but surgical masks can be useful in limiting skin-to-skin contact with a person who is infected.

 

“I would ask, just as I would in a COVID case,” said Noymer He said that the most efficient preventative measures include regularly washing bedding and clothes used by those with the virus cleaning countertops, disinfecting them, and cleaning the toilets. Recent cases have revealed the presence of specific lesions around the rectal and genital regions, meaning that everything in bathrooms may require extra hygiene.

 

How to Protect Against Monkeypox

The number of cases of monkeypox continues to increase across the U.S., and health officials are calling for greater alertness, but not panic.

 

As per the CDC, the person who is suffering from the appearance of its monkeypox–i.e. tiny blisters or pimples should consult their physician even if they’re not aware of any contact with a person who is infected.

 

To avoid the possibility of contracting monkeypox People should also avoid contact with people who might be infected or any surfaces or objects they might have touched. It’s also important to practice good hygiene–handwashing, cleaning surfaces–and isolate from or wear personal protective equipment around infected people.

 

Since the greatest proportion of monkeypox cases currently are in men who have had sexual relations with other men, even though it is not a sexually transmitted disease–the CDC is also releasing guidelines for safer sexual routines in the situation of monkeypox. This includes having sex with virtual and limiting how many partners in order to aid in reducing the spread.

 

Though monkeypox is typically self-limiting–meaning it can clear up on its own–the disease is still considered contagious until monkeypox lesions and scabs have completely healed, and a new layer of skin has formed over the affected areas. This could take 2 to 4 weeks according to the CDC advised, and during this time contact and sharing items must be avoided.