TOP STORIES Monkeypox Explained - The New York Times

Monkeypox Explained – The New York Times


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Monkeypox is a viral disease that is spreading throughout the world. There are still over 6300 known cases in the US almost exclusively among gays and bisexuals. New York, California, Illinois and some cities declared a state of emergency after the World Health Organization declared a global emergency.

The headlines are grim enough to make you worry that monkeypox is like SARS or Covid: another virus that could ruin or even threaten your life. The good news is that monkeypox is much less contagious and much less likely to be fatal than Covid. There are also vaccines and treatments originally developed for smallpox that work against monkeypox.

But while monkeypox probably won’t kill you, it can be painful enough that you want to avoid it nonetheless: it can to cause a pain which some patients compare to shards of glass scratching the skin. And while the virus now mainly affects gays and bisexuals, that could change if it continues to spread unhindered. Nothing about the virus restricts its spread to only men who have sex with men (not all of whom identify as gay or bisexual).

Today’s fact sheet explains what we know about monkeypox and what people can do to stay safe.

Monkeypox causes symptoms that can range from unpleasant to painful, although they are rarely fatal. At least six deaths out of 25,000 cases have been reported in places where the virus was not known to exist prior to the current outbreak. The risk of death is higher for young children and people who are immunocompromised or pregnant.

A characteristic symptom is ulcers, which may look like pimples or blisters. They can be painful, especially in sensitive areas such as the genitals and anus.

“I was afraid to go to the toilet,” Gabriel Morales, who recently recovered from monkeypox, told The Times. He described the sores as “broken glass” in his body.

Other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion. The illness usually lasts two to four weeks.

Monkeypox is mainly spread through close physical contact, usually skin-to-skin contact. Most of the infections in the current outbreak have resulted from close contact during sexual intercourse. The virus can also be spread through contaminated surfaces, including clothing and bedding. Momentary contact, such as a handshake, is usually not enough to spread monkeypox. Unlike Covid, it doesn’t seem to spread much through the air.

Almost half of the known cases in the US occurred in the first three states to declare a state of emergency: New York, California and Illinois.

Today, about 98 per cent of cases worldwide are among men who have sex with men. Many of them had several partners, sometimes strangers. Some early superspreader events there were gay parties in Europewhich appeared to introduce the virus into the social networks of men who have sex with men.

Public health officials have struggled to acknowledge some of these factors, fearing they could stigmatize gay and bisexual people. But part of the proper public health response is directed at the people most at risk and the most dangerous activities, and that requires an honest assessment of what is happening.

Most people are not currently at serious risk of contracting monkeypox because the virus is currently concentrated among gay and bisexual men. “Your risk depends on who you are,” my colleague Apoorva Mandavilli, who has covered the current outbreak since the first US case was identified, told me.

To reduce the risk, gay and bisexual men may try to make sure their male sexual partners don’t have monkeypox by watching for ulcers. They can use a condom, which can at least reduce the chance of sores in sensitive areas. They can temporarily reduce their number of sexual partners or avoiding riskier activities such as anonymous sex and sex parties. Practicing good hygiene, such as frequent hand washing, can also help.

Vaccines and tests for monkeypox also exist, although they are not currently widely available due to supply shortages and strict government access regulations.

If someone is infected, CDC recommends isolate at home and stay away from others if possible. But this can be very difficult due to the illness, which can last four weeks – another reason to prioritize prevention and slowing the spread.

Public health officials are trying to make vaccines, treatments and testing more accessible. Yesterday, President Biden appointed a national monkeypox coordinator to oversee these efforts.

But progress has been slow. When monkeypox broke out in May and June, 300,000 doses of US-owned vaccine remained in Denmark.

Officials are also trying to raise public awareness about monkeypox, given that it is a new virus for most Americans.

Their main goal now is to avoid a wider outbreak that makes monkeypox an endemic virus that regularly spreads across the US like the flu. If monkeypox continues to spread unchecked, it could eventually spread to a wider population than gays and bisexuals, said Dr. Celine Gunder, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“It can still be contained,” she added. “But that will require more aggressive screening, testing and vaccination.”

Monkeypox is generally not fatal, but can still cause painful illness and permanent scarring. Right now, the risk for most people is low, but that could change if the virus continues to spread. And people who are at serious risk can take steps to stay safe and prevent the outbreak from worsening.

It’s cucumber summer. Not real pickles – although they are as popular as ever – but a flavor that is everywhere, writes Cristina Morales.

The tangy spices add a sweet and sour flavor that complements snacks like popcorn and pizza. Frito-Lay now makes Lays, Doritos and Ruffles pickle flavored chips. Trader Joe’s said its pickled dill seasoning mix sold out shortly after it hit store shelves in May.

Social media has helped boost the fragrance’s popularity. Meg and Maddie Antonelli, the TikTok mother-daughter duo, make pickle pizza at home, spread pickle sauce on burgers and top with pickled dill seasoning pasta. “I wish it was always in trend,” Meg Antonelli said, “because I love pickles.”

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