Although the White House declared monkeypox a public health emergency last month with fewer than 20,000 cases detected nationwide, Prince George’s County health officials said the disease won’t have as big an effect compared to COVID-19.
Dr. Ernest Carter, the county’s chief health officer, addressed similarities and differences between monkeypox and the flu.
“With monkeypox, you have to have skin contact. You have to have intimate contact. Even when it comes out in droplets, you literally have to kiss somebody or spray it in somebody’s face for that to happen,” Carter said during a virtual town hall Aug. 24. “We don’t anticipate that monkeypox will spread in the school system like COVID did.”
During the first week or two in the county’s public schools, nurses must instruct students on hand washing to promote and encourage cleanliness, said Dr. Traci Jones with the school system.
Jones also said students and staff shouldn’t share utensils, school supplies, clothing or other personal items.
She said she plans to meet with principals and athletic directors to present information on monkeypox.
Athletic directors must ensure athletic equipment be wiped down after each use. Coaches must also conduct a verbal questionnaire with student athletes to see if they’re experiencing a fever or rashes.
Currently, students and staff must wear masks inside all school buildings.
“We are [about] prevention,” she said.
The CDC noted less than 500 cases in Maryland. A limited number of monkeypox vaccine appointments in Prince George’s remain available through Friday, Sept. 2.
One participant asked about the impact on the LGBTQ community.
The CDC notes about 99% of the cases are among men and about 94% are reportedly among the men-to-men sexual or close contact demographic.
The federal agency noted how it will frame its message about monkeypox and not stigmatize gay and bisexual men. It also advised state, local and community leaders to describe monkeypox as a public health issue.
“At this time, data suggest that gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men make up the majority of cases in the current monkeypox outbreak,” said Henry Bishop, administrative chief for the county Health Department’s HIV and STD prevention program. “However, anyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity that has been in close, personal contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk.”
The town hall also summarized how monkeypox begins with flu-like symptoms that can be seen within two weeks. About three days later, sores may develop on the skin that resemble pimples or blisters that can be itchy or painful.
One participant asked if home remedies like oatmeal and calamine lotion, used to treat chickenpox, can similarly ease the impact of monkeypox.
Carter said yes but reiterated “monkeypox is completely different from chickenpox.”
“It’s a completely different virus,” Carter said. “The lesions will hurt and itch. You would use the same topical treatments that you would have for chickenpox and you would also talk to your doctor.”
Some advice to prevent the spread of monkeypox includes:
- Avoid close and skin-to-skin contact.
- Do not share eating utensils or cups.
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle, or have sex with a person diagnosed with monkeypox.
- Wash your hands with soap or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before eating or touching your face.
Finally, one participant asked whether those traveling and staying in a hotel should wipe desks, tables and other surfaces in a room.
Carter said yes, calling it a “public health practice.” He said there should be no concerns about bed sheets.
“Even though the hotel [staff] tells you they wiped it down, for your peace of mind and your regular practice, you should wipe down all the surfaces,” he said. “I don’t go and wash all the sheets because in order to get monkeypox, you would have to literally get in the sheets after someone who had monkeypox just got out of them.”
For more information, call the county Health Department’s Monkeypox Call Center at 301-883-6566.