Monkeypox in LA County: How can you stay safe? Use same measures used to prevent COVID, doctors say

Experts say monkeypox can pass to humans through a bite or a scratch or human-to-human transmission.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County's first monkeypox case still has to be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but all indications show it's here.

So what exactly is monkeypox? Do you need to be concerned about it?

Unlike COVID-19, we've known about monkeypox for decades so we're better prepared.

Sporadic cases occur every year, but they usually stay confined to Africa. But some years, we see it spread to other continents, and this is one of those years.

It's usually not deadly and monkeypox is nowhere near as transmissible as the coronavirus.

Despite additional cases, health officials said monkeypox is not as transmissible as COVID and poses a very small risk.

"What I can tell you is that this person is confirmed to have traveled domestically," said L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer of the presumed case.

We know this person had a known close contact to a case and that the individual is symptomatic and is in isolation.

The person is doing well and is not hospitalized.

"Monkeypox is a serious disease," said Paul Chapin with Bavarian Nordic, a company that produces monkeypox vaccines. "However, it is nowhere near as infectious as for example COVID. So I think while we have to take all measures necessary to try and contain the outbreak. The general public should not be alarmed."

Experts say monkeypox is a cousin of the smallpox virus and causes similar, but milder, symptoms in humans.

It can pass to humans through a bite or scratch. Human-to-human transmission occurs either through hugging, touching or prolonged face-to-face contact.

"It can also be transmitted if someone has a virus very close to someone coughing and talking loudly," said Dr. Edward Jones-Lopez, an infectious disease specialist with Keck Medicine of USC.

He said the same mitigation efforts you use for COVID-19, like wearing a mask and staying apart, will keep you safe.

Symptoms include: Headaches, fever, exhaustion, muscle aches, chills, backache, lesions and swollen lymph nodes.

Available vaccines and therapeutics can help contain outbreaks.

"It's a vaccine that is not specifically against monkeypox, but it has pretty good cross protection from smallpox," said Jones-Lopex.

Some vaccines, including the one for monkeypox and rabies, can be given right after someone is exposed to prevent the virus from taking hold in the body.

There are two vaccines in the U.S. national stockpile that can be used for monkeypox exposure.

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