Monkeypox is here. It’s time to dust off those pandemic protocols: risk and insurance

The good news? We already have an effective vaccine.

It’s official: the Biden administration has declared the growing epidemic of monkeypox in the United States, the state of emergency.

Since monkeypox infections began to appear in the United States in late May, cases have broken out in New York, Illinois and California, all of which declared their own states of emergency earlier this year. The virus has now spread to all states except Wyoming.

The rapid spread of the virus can give employers a sense of deja vu. At the start of 2020, we watched with close attention as the virus now known as COVID-19 spread from country to country and state to state.

As monkeypox continues to spread across the country, employers will want to be aware of the spread of the virus within their communities and should adopt protocols to reduce transmission.

Here’s a look at what we know so far.

First, some good news

The good news for employers? This outbreak is not at all similar to the one society faced when the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

To begin with, COVID-19 was a new virus – one that humans had never experienced before. Monkeypox, on the other hand, was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks occurred in groups of research monkeys, according to the CDC.

The first human case occurred 12 years later in 1970.

Even better news? We already have an effective vaccine. In 2019, the FDA approved the JYNNEOS vaccine, which can be used to prevent smallpox and monkeypox. Another vaccine ACAM2000can be used to prevent monkeypox under the FDA’s Expanded Access Investigational New Drug (IND) system.

Monkeypox is also much less contagious than COVID and is usually spread through skin-to-skin contact, through yale medicine, although instances of surface and face-to-face contact have been reported.

“Based on current evidence, transmission through contaminated surfaces such as doorknobs, faucets, etc. and close face-to-face contact with symptomatic people have been noted in a few cases,” said Dr. Prachi Nagda, clinical services physician at Mercer.

“Although, let me emphasize, the primary mode of transmission remains skin-to-skin contact.”

In numbers

Key insights into how the virus spreads and takes hold can be seen thanks to CDC data.

  • So far, 14,115 cases have been reported in the United States
  • Several clusters of monkeypox have been reported around the world 69 countries.
  • Those in the Age range 31-35 years old appear to have the most reported cases, with 2,331 recorded in August 2022.
  • 98.6% of infected people have reported rashes. 72.7% report malaise/lethargy as a key symptom, and 72.1% note the fever.
  • The very good news: Zero deaths have been associated with contraction of monkeypox.

Tried-and-true pandemic protocols can help curb monkeypox cases

Many of the same protocols employers have in place to combat COVID-19 can be used to reduce transmission of monkeypox in the workplace.

This includes disinfecting surfaces, encouraging rigorous hand washing, and abandoning handshakes and other close contact with others, all of which can go a long way to reducing the spread.

“That’s one of the benefits of the pressure of the COVID era, it’s how prepared we can be if we prepare for the next pandemic,” said Clint Van Marrewijk, founder and CEO of SaferMea company that manufactures contact tracing devices for employers.

If an employee catches monkeypox, contact tracing can help alert close contacts, so they can stay home and prevent further spread.

“Contact tracing is one of the three main pillars of virus defense,” Van Marrewijk said.

But the best thing employers can do if they want to reduce the spread of monkeypox is to allow employees to Work at home or to grant long periods of paid sick leave, as people can be contagious for long periods of time.

Current guidelines recommend that people with monkeypox isolate for two to four weeksreported NPR.

“The most important thing employers can do to prevent the spread in the workplace would be to provide flexibility to work from home or on leave if [an employee] cannot work from home for those who have been in close contact with a confirmed case to allow them to self-isolate,” Nagda said.

Another key point to note is that some industries are more at risk than others.

“The industries most prone to this would probably be hospitality. [and] healthcare industries,” said Kenneth Wells, chief medical officer at Marsh.

Additionally, employers may wonder if monkeypox qualifies as a workers’ compensation claim?

“That could be the case if an employee can prove the transmission happened at work,” Wells said. &

Courtney DuChene is Associate Editor at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

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