Employers should consider updating their current pandemic safety policies to include information about monkeypox, including how the virus is spread and its symptoms.
What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a viral infection that presents with flu-like symptoms, swelling of the lymph nodes, and a rash that includes bumps that are initially filled with clear fluid or pus before scabbing over.
How Monkeypox Spreads
The monkeypox virus is transmitted through close contact with another infected person, contaminated materials or an infected animal. In addition to the person-to-person spread, the virus can spread face-to-face, skin-to-skin, mouth-to-mouth or mouth-to-skin.
Symptoms of monkeypox infection may include some or all the following:
- Sore throat, nasal congestion, cough
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A rash that can look like pimples or blisters on the face, inside the mouth, or other parts of the body such as the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.
The incubation period (which is the interval from infection to onset of symptoms) for monkeypox can last up to 21 days. If an employee tests positive for monkeypox, the illness can generally last between two to four weeks.
Employer Response to Monkeypox
As a reminder of best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, employers can take the following steps to address potential or actual monkeypox occurrences in the workplace:
Implement an Employee Monkeypox Exposure and Diagnosis Policy
Just as with COVID-19, if an employee has monkeypox, they should not come to the worksite or office. Employers may consider updating their self-monitoring policies to expand symptoms to include all monkeypox symptoms, too. Any employee who exhibits monkeypox symptoms should contact their healthcare provider for medical advice, testing and care.
Share CDC Monkeypox Prevention Information
- People who live with or have close contact with someone who has monkeypox or with animals that could be infected are the most at risk for catching monkeypox. Healthcare workers who work with monkeypox patients should follow infection prevention and control protocols to protect themselves, including avoiding directly touching the bedding, towels and clothing of a person with monkeypox.
- An employee who has contracted or suspects that they have contracted monkeypox should not return to the office or worksite until all symptoms have resolved or they have received a negative diagnosis for monkeypox. All accommodations should be made for the employee to work remotely in order to prevent the spread of monkeypox to others.
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox, and do not share eating utensils or cups with someone with monkeypox symptoms.
- Employees who are aware they have been in close contact with someone with monkeypox should monitor for symptoms up to 21 days after exposure. Any employee who has confirmed monkeypox should isolate at home until their symptoms have dissipated.
- Employees should continue to follow hygiene protocols and frequently wash their hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Monkeypox is genetically similar to smallpox; thus, it is currently believed that smallpox vaccines can be used to provide some protection against monkeypox. The CDC recommends vaccination for people exposed to monkeypox and those at higher risk of exposure, including some designated healthcare or public health workers and laboratory workers who work with orthopoxviruses.
Vaccination is an important tool in preventing the spread of monkeypox. The criteria for vaccination include people who meet one of the following:
- Gay/bisexual men or transgender people who are sexually active with more than one partner
- Anyone who is at high risk of monkeypox exposure: This includes but is not limited to people who:
- Are HIV positive or receive HIV PrEP therapy
- Are experiencing homelessness
- Use IV drugs
- Give or receive money or other goods in exchange for sex
- Have significant, skin-to-skin contact with others in a social or sexual venue
- Work at establishments where sexual or intimate activity occurs (e.g., bathhouses, saunas, sex clubs, hotels)
- Clinicians or laboratory staff who are at high risk of occupational exposure
- Anyone who has been determined to be at high risk by a healthcare provider or public health official
Note: Information on vaccine availability in your area can be found by contacting your local health department.
For More Information
Visit the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to learn more about transmission, prevention, symptoms and eligibility for vaccination, testing and treatment. In Louisiana, visit the Louisiana Department of Health website, and in Mississippi, visit the Mississippi Department of Health website for more information.