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No Longer a Public Health Emergency, Mpox Myths Remain

Infectious disease specialist dispels misconceptions with what’s been learned about the disease.

Mpox, the virus formerly known as monkeypox when it appeared on the U.S. scene in May 2022, lost its classification as a public health emergency on Jan. 31. That designation was bestowed in early August 2022, as the number of confirmed cases continued to climb. On Aug. 6, the seven-day daily average peaked at 460, according to the CDC. On March 1, that average stood at one.

While the disease may no longer be grabbing headlines, misconceptions about the virus persist. In an interview with Health Digest, Vincent Hsu, MD, infectious disease specialist and infection control officer for AdventHealth, addressed the lingering myths:

Myth: Mpox is over and I’m not at risk.

Fact: While the mpox outbreak has subsided and risk of infection is much lower now, there are still infections that are being transmitted to others.

Myth: If I am at risk, there’s no longer a need for me to get a vaccine.

Fact: Because the outbreak is not eradicated, people at risk of getting mpox should still reduce their risk by getting vaccinated.

Myth: I can’t transmit mpox if I have no symptoms.

Fact: We have learned more recently that transmission can occur even before the onset of symptoms such as fever or rash. However, we have not seen evidence of transmission if you never develop any symptoms later.

Myth: If I don’t notice symptoms soon after I know I’ve been exposed to mpox, that means I haven’t contracted it.

Fact: It can take three weeks or more after exposure to develop symptoms, and the time period just before and during symptoms is when you are at greatest risk of transmitting to others.

Myth: I can get mpox through casual contact.

Fact: Mpox is spread through close personal, usually skin-to-skin contact, and sexual contact, but not through casual contact.

"We have learned many new things about mpox over the course of this outbreak," Dr. Hsu said. It is still important, he suggested, to stay up-to-date on the latest information regarding the illness. "Keeping close tabs on the latest developments provided through reliable and trusted sources such as local public health agencies and the CDC will aid in debunking myths and controlling the spread of mpox,” Dr. Hsu said.

"Understand what your risk is,” he added. “If you're in a high-risk group, pay attention to sources of close contact. Recognize that symptoms — fever, malaise, headache, rash — could be indicative of a number of things. Immediately speak with your health care provider, seek care and get tested."

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