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Coping with Anxiety About MonkeyPox

We’ve had quite a bit going on in the past couple of years to make us more fearful of catching infectious diseases. I think COVID has given many of us a new perspective on taking precautions to not catch an illness, and hopefully, to not spread an illness. I know I personally am more way likely to stay home and encourage others to stay home if I’m sick. For some of us, it may have caused some extra anxiety on top of just trying to be conscientious of getting sick and how we behave after we’re sick.

As if we needed something else to plague us and make us anxious about getting sick, Monkey Pox came in to deny some of the relief we were experiencing as COVID started to cool down. Naturally, with the elevated anxiety that many of us felt, it seemed like an “oh great, another illness to be scared of that some people won’t give a shit about.” How do we make it so we don’t have to live in fear of yet another illness?

What is Monkeypox?

Simply put; a cousin of smallpox. Not related to chickenpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to but milder than, smallpox. Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when there was a breakout in test monkeys. As if those poor monkeys didn't have enough on their plates. Until this recent outbreak in 2022, all the human cases outside of Africa were all linked to international travel or countries that allow imported animals that might have it. Like monkeys and African rodents.

"People with monkeypox get a rash that may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) and could be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.

  • The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.

  • The rash can initially look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.

Other symptoms of monkeypox can include:

  • Fever

  • Chills

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Exhaustion

  • Muscle aches and backache

  • Headache

  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)

You may experience all or only a few symptoms

  • Sometimes, people have flu-like symptoms before the rash.

  • Some people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms.

  • Others only experience a rash.

How long do monkeypox symptoms last?

Monkeypox symptoms usually start within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus. If someone has flu-like symptoms, they will usually develop a rash 1-4 days later.

A person with monkeypox can spread it to others from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. Some people have been found to have infection but no symptoms. To date, however, there is no evidence that monkeypox spreads from people with no symptoms."

How can you avoid spreading it?

Avoid close contact, including sex or being intimate with anyone, until you have been checked out by a healthcare provider.

  • If you don’t have a provider or health insurance, visit a public health clinic near you.

  • When you see a healthcare provider, wear a mask, and remind them that this virus is circulating in the area.

It is okay if you are one of those people who worry a lot about potentially catching a contagious illness. It happens. The anxiety. Hopefully not the catching of contagious illnesses. It can be really hard to stay grounded when your anxiety is running rampant about whatever it is fearing. There are ways that you can keep your anxiety at bay, or at least lower it so it doesn’t drive you quite so crazy.

Ways of Coping with Anxiety About Monkeypox
  1. Look at the facts. First and foremost, the transmission of Monkey Pox requires intimate contact with someone who has Monkey Pox. If you are in a monogamous relationship or haven’t had any intimate/sexual contact with anyone, you’re good - nothing to worry about. You can’t catch it from objects they’ve touched or used. If you’re extra worried, I’d caution you not to share water bottles or drinks with people if you don’t know or trust their status. If you are engaging in sexual or intimate contact with others, then you can check the facts regarding symptoms. Do you have a rash manifesting in intimate regions? If not, then do you have a fever, chills, exhaustion, unexplained muscle aches, headaches, or respiratory issues? If you don’t have any of these symptoms then you’re more than likely in the clear.

  2. Engage in safety behaviors. If you are engaging in sexual or intimate contact with anyone, clearly one of the things in your control is the utilization of condoms. I think most people know condoms significantly reduce your likelihood of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. If you are anxious about possibly catching it, it would be worth the use of condoms just to lower your anxiety. Another safety behavior is making sure the people you are being active with are getting tested regularly and engaging in safe sex behaviors as well.

  3. Ensure adequate communication with those around you. Ask about testing behaviors with those that you are intimate with. Also, ensure that you know whether or not they are sexually active with others. It may feel awkward to have those conversations, but again, totally worth it if it means you don’t have to feel so anxious about potentially getting Monkey Pox. Setting your boundaries and communicating your boundaries regarding safe sex behaviors is also critical.

  4. Remind yourself of the facts and what you’ve done. If you happen to be a person who finds yourself focused on this at random hours of the day, or you know, the sleepless nights, remind yourself of the facts. Remind yourself of your recent behaviors and if any of them could potentially increase your risk. If your recent behaviors couldn’t increase your risk, let it go. Also, if you don’t have any symptoms on top of engaging in safe behaviors, you can let it go.

  5. Get tested. When all else fails to mitigate your anxiety, you can always get tested to help put your mind at ease. If your anxiety is that high and nothing is really helping to lower your anxiety, then it can give you peace of mind to get tested to have more evidence about your status. Getting tested is easy. You can schedule an appointment with your general practitioner, or you can visit urgent care. Emergency rooms have the capability to test, but if monkeypox is the only thing you’re worried about, I caution against taxing the system unnecessarily and challenge you to schedule with an urgent care clinic or visit their next available walk-in hours.

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