Addressing monkeypox in the workplace

The monkeypox outbreak in the U.S. was declared a national public health emergency in early August, even as COVID-19 remained in the headlines. However, there are big differences between the diseases. While COVID-19 remains a threat to public health, monkeypox has a significantly smaller risk of transmission, with no indications a workplace shutdown will be necessary.

Despite the reduced risk, we encourage employers to learn more about the monkeypox virus and prepare for potential infections in the workplace. Below you’ll find essential knowledge and helpful tips for employers addressing monkeypox.

The Basics

  • Monkeypox: The virus is a relative of smallpox and causes symptoms such as skin sores, fever, and muscle aches, among others.
  • Transmission: Monkeypox is primarily transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with those exhibiting skin sores.
  • Risk: The monkeypox virus is a serious, painful disease, but one that is rarely fatal.

Protecting Against the Virus

  • Prevention: Primarily, individuals should avoid skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox and avoid contact with objects or materials a person with monkeypox has used.
  • Vaccines: The smallpox vaccine can decrease monkeypox symptoms and lower the risk of infection. However, widespread vaccination is not currently recommended. Vaccines are in short supply and dose allocations are reserved for select groups at this time.

Addressing Monkeypox in the Workplace

  • Exposure: Unlike COVID-19, employees exposed to monkeypox can still come to work. Anyone exposed to monkeypox should monitor themselves for 21 days for symptoms.
  • Contact: Employers can promote contact-free greetings in the workplace to reduce the risk of monkeypox infections. If an employee’s tasks include touching skin, or coming into contact with materials that have touched skin, we strongly recommend the employee wears gloves.
  • Hand washing: Encourage employees to wash their hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching their face and after using the bathroom.

For more information on Monkeypox transmission, symptoms, and prevention, visit the CDC website and check out this article by Dr. Susan Fleischman, our chief medical officer.

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