By Brandon S. Leonard
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to affect some parts of the globe even as others try to return to normalcy, another disease has recently been on the rise: monkeypox.
Monkeypox is largely native to West and Central Africa, and its spread beyond that region has been relatively rare. The current outbreak represents the first time monkeypox has been seen beyond Africa on a large scale, as globally, there are about 59,179 cases—22,630 of them being in the United States.
The fear surrounding monkeypox can largely be attributed to its uncommonness outside of Africa, with many in the Western world being unfamiliar with its symptoms and the progression of the disease itself.
However, there has only been a single death in the United States due to the disease, and only about a hundred and twenty worldwide. Monkeypox is, commonly, not fatal unless paired with other infections someone might have. In fact, the disease is rarely worse than the common flu, with minor differences and lasting approximately two to four weeks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention go into more detail regarding monkeypox’s symptoms and transmission. The virus is commonly transmitted through direct contact with either the rashes or scabs that form in the mid to late stages of the illness or through contact with bodily fluids. The disease can also be transmitted through coming into contact with items and surfaces touched by someone with monkeypox.
Florida currently ranks third highest in total cases of monkeypox in the US, having about 2,301 confirmed cases whereas the other two, California and New York, have 4,300 and 3,694 cases respectively. That being said, Florida’s cases are low relative to its overall population (21 million as of 2020) and the number of cases in other states quickly drops off to a low number.
The CDC’s data suggests that men who have sex with other men are “disproportionately affected” by the disease, and in fact make up the majority of those infected with the virus.
“Talk to your partner about any recent illness and be aware of new or unexplained rash on your body or your partner’s body,” said Gina Firth, assistant vice president for wellness at UT. “If you or a partner has monkeypox, the best way to protect yourself and others is to avoid sex of any kind and not kiss or touch each other’s bodies while sick, especially any rash.”
She advises that “When socializing, consider how much close, personal, skin-to-skin contact is likely to occur at the event you plan to attend.”
Should you feel sick or have any kind of rash prior to attending an event, it is best to avoid doing so and to go see a healthcare advisor.
That being said, one does not need to be paranoid when it comes to the spread of monkeypox. Although it is always wise to be mindful of one’s surroundings, there is plenty of unfounded fear around monkeypox.
According to the Hillsborough County Health Department, most cases are concentrated around the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area, while Hillsborough’s cases and overall transmission rates are low.
“Festivals, events, and concerts where attendees are fully clothed and unlikely to share skin-to-skin contact are safer. However, attendees should be mindful of activities (like kissing) that might spread monkeypox,” said Firth. “We have not had any cases at UT.”