Grabbing headlines is the newest infectious disease spreading atround the world called monkeypox. Should employers be worried?
Some, but not too much, advises Katherine Dudley Helms an attorney with the law firm of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart.
It is a viral illness with symptoms including body aches, headaches, fatigue and, notably, a bumpy skin rash. It is primarily found in Africa, but cases have begun to appear in the United States. It also has been seen in several European countries, Australia and Canada.
Monkeypox has an incubation period that generally lasts 7-14 days but can be as long as 5-21 days.
Unlike what we have been through with Covid 19, having to wear a mask will not likely be an issue with monkeypox, Helms notes. It is spread through infected animals, prolonged person-to-person contact, direct contact with lesion materials, or indirect contact through contaminated items, such as contaminated clothing.
Avoiding these will help prevent infection. Since frequent handwashing continues to be a good hygiene practice, encouraging this as a frequent practice by employees is an easy and effective way to address the threat.
According to public health officials, the risk of exposure remains low although there are expected to be more cases in the United States. Health officials believe the smallpox vaccination will offer some amount of protection from monkeypox.
Helms recommended that employers who have employees who are expected to travel internationally, either for personal or business reasons, may consider educating them on the symptoms, how it is transmitted, and the fact that they may wish to consult with their own healthcare practitioners about the smallpox vaccination.
However, she says, “there is no indication that travel should be avoided or prohibited.”