The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just presented some next level stuff when it comes to traveling during the current monkeypox outbreak. The outbreak, which has already resulted in over 200 confirmed and over 100 suspected cases in over 20 different countries has prompted the CDC to move its travel advisory from Level 1 to Level 2. Level 2 is the “Alert” level, corresponding to “Practice Enhanced Precautions.” Level 1 was the “Watch” level, which simply meant “Practice Usual Precautions.”
The CDC has a total of three possible levels when it comes to monkeypox travel advisories. The highest level would be Level 3, which is the the “Warning” level and corresponds to “Avoid Nonessential Travel.” Clearly, like golf scores and the number of times a marmot hits you in the groin with a golf club, the higher the number, the worse things are. While Level 2 does not really restrict where you can travel, as the name of the level implies, it does mean that you should be alerted to practice some “enhanced precautions.”
What are these so-called enhanced precautions? Well, the CDC lists several things that travels should avoid. One is “Close contact with sick people, including those with skin lesions or genital lesions.” So, if you are in the habit of touching other people’s lesions while you are traveling, stop it. Of course, this is probably something that you should avoid doing at any time, even when you are not traveling and even when there isn’t a monkeypox outbreak.
A second thing that you should avoid while traveling, according to the CDC, is “Contact with dead or live wild animals such as small mammals including rodents (rats, squirrels) and non-human primates (monkeys, apes).” This is presumably direct contact with such animals and doesn’t include texting or messaging via apps like WhatsApp with them, unless, of course, the messages are disturbing. This warning is due to the fact that such animals may carry the virus that causes monkeypox. Again, it’s a good idea to maintain such precautions even when a monkeypox outbreak is not happening and you are not traveling. There won’t be a time when the CDC will say, “OK, go back to having your raves with rodents now.”
The third thing to avoid is “Eating or preparing meat from wild game (bushmeat) or using products derived from wild animals from Africa (creams, lotions, powders)” to quote the CDC website. This means that consuming bushmeat burgers and wild game ganache or smearing yourself with chimpanzee cream, leopard lotion, or pangolin powder would not be a good idea. Once again these are things to avoid in general and not just during such a travel advisory.
The fourth piece of CDC advice is to avoid “Contact with contaminated materials used by sick people (such as clothing, bedding, or materials used in healthcare settings) or that came into contact with infected animals.” This means that you shouldn’t say, “hey, you with the multiple fluid-filled lesions all over your face and body, could I borrow the pillowcase that you are using right now?” This is because those infected with the monkeypox virus can contaminate objects with the virus, which when handled can end up infecting you.
Before you raise your arms above your head in preparation to panic, the CDC alert does emphasize that the “Risk to the general public is low.” The monkeypox virus ain’t the Covid-19 coronavirus. It isn’t nearly as contagious. Although you can be infected by large respiratory droplets coughed or sneezed out by someone who is infectious, it is unlikely to be aerosolized and spread further via small respiratory droplets in the same manner as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Close contact is typically required to transmit the virus.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should ignore any signs that you may have been exposed to the monkeypox virus. The CDC urges you to “seek medical care immediately if you develop new, unexplained skin rash (lesions on any part of the body), with or without fever and chills, and avoid contact with others.” This is another piece of advice that should hold at all times. The answer to the question, “how are doing today” should never be “fine, except for all these unexplained skin rashes which I am ignoring.” The CDC also recommends that “If possible, call ahead before going to a healthcare facility. If you are not able to call ahead, tell a staff member as soon as you arrive that you are concerned about monkeypox.” People at the healthcare facility such as in the waiting room won’t appreciate it if you don’t tell them in advance that you may have monkeypox. That tends to be an important piece of information to reveal sooner than later to anyone you may encounter. Imagine what would happen if your date were to reveal to your halfway during dinner, right before the desserts, that he or she may have monkeypox.
When you see your doctor, tell him or her about any monkeypox risk factors that you may have such as being in close contact with someone infected with the virus, especially if you’ve have sex with that person. Yes, sex is considered close contact, regardless of whether you planned on calling him or her again. Another risk factor is being in area where monkeypox has been reported. Over the years, monkeypox cases have more commonly occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan. The CDC travel advisory mentions that as of May 26 the following 20 countries have reported confirmed cases of monkeypox during this outbreak: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, and United States. However, this list may grow until public health officials are able to contain the outbreak.
As this NBC News segment reported monkeypox has now appeared in South America as well:
Oh, and if there is any possibility that you may have monkeypox, please delay any travel via public transportation until a real healthcare professional or public health official has examined you and officially cleared you for such travel. Although the current CDC Level 2 travel advisory doesn’t mean that you should cancel any travel to avoid catching monkeypox, you really shouldn’t be traveling if there’s any chance that you may be sick with anything that may be contagious. After all, monkeypoxing around while on the bus, train, or airplane would not be cool at all.