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Aug. 16, 2022

Ask the Expert: Monkeypox and preventing the spread

"Ask the Expert" articles provide information and insights from MSU scientists, researchers and scholars about national and global issues, complex research and general-interest subjects based on their areas of academic expertise and study. They may feature historical information, background or research findings, or offer tips.


Peter Gulick, a professor of medicine in the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and an infectious disease expert, speaks about MPV, commonly known as monkeypox virus, and how educating the public is the first step toward preventing the spread of the virus.


What is MPV?


MPV is a virus in the same family as smallpox. It was found to infect monkeys in 1958, and humans in 1970. The first outbreak in the U.S., in 2002, was small. Until recently, there have been minor outbreaks, mostly in central and western Africa.


What are the symptoms of MPV?


The symptoms may be initial fever and fatigue, coming either two or three days before or after a painful rash, which may occur anywhere. Ninety-five percent of MPV cases have been found in gay men, though, again, this is not a sexually transmitted disease. MPV has now been reported in children, lesbians and heterosexual women and men. In Africa, 60% of men, and 40% of women, get outbreaks of skin lesions. 


How do you get MPV?


Skin contact is the major way MPV can be contracted. It can rarely be transmitted by the respiratory system.


What can we do to avoid contracting the virus?


Though it’s not a sexually transmitted disease, avoiding high-risk sexual activity with partners you do not know will help, since it’s transmitted through the skin. Also, limit physical contact with people who have rashes. If MPV is identified, the infected person should isolate until the lesions heal, and anyone who has been exposed to MPV should get vaccinated. Vaccines are much more effective when administered before exposure. After exposure, they should be given within a few days to offer any level of protection. 


Are there vaccines for MPV?


There are currently two vaccines that were designated for smallpox, but also work on MPV. The preferred vaccine is the JYNNEOS vaccine. It is safer, with fewer side effects. It may provide 85% protection against MPV.


How has the White House declaring this a public health emergency created more conversation about providing resources to the public such as vaccines?


Hopefully, making health care professionals, as well as the public, aware of this condition and what to look for will prevent the spread. Educating the public about the signs and symptoms of the virus, and when to get tested, is the first step in doing that. There is also an antiviral that can be given to people with MPV to prevent progression.


What is your concern level for Michigan versus the rest of the United States?


As of now, Michigan has 70 cases, compared to 1,000 in New York. We must be vigilant in educating the public about MPV to prevent new cases, as well as in treating the existing cases, so that the spread will stop. 


As the school year begins at all levels, how can we prepare?


We need to educate the public about what this is, and how to prevent the spread. In addition, as more vaccines become available, all high-risk people should start getting vaccinated. 

By: Kaylie Crowe

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