Monkeypox: What Healthcare Travelers Need to Know

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By TNAA Healthcare

August 16, 2022

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What Healthcare Travelers Need to Know About Monkeypox

TNAA Healthcare provided this article.

The United States has officially declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency. The first domestic case attributed to this outbreak was confirmed on May 17, 2022. Since then, there have been over 7,000 additional cases.

What Is Monkeypox and How Is It Transmitted?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox is caused by an orthopox virus in the same family as the virus that leads to smallpox. However, monkeypox is often a milder illness. Its symptoms include fever, aches, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, malaise, and a severe rash.

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Anyone can contract monkeypox as healthcare experts say the virus can be transmitted through direct contact with the rash or bodily fluids, respiratory secretions during prolonged periods of close contact, touching objects, such as linens and clothing, previously in contact with the rash or bodily fluids of an infected person, and being bitten or scratched by an infected animal.

There are a few ways to limit the disease. According to the CDC, “Smallpox and monkeypox vaccines are effective at protecting people against monkeypox when given before exposure to monkeypox. Experts also believe vaccination after a monkeypox exposure may help prevent or make the disease less severe.” However, monkeypox-specific vaccines are not readily available to the general public as of this posting.

What You Should Do As a Traveling Healthcare Professional

Know Your Facility’s Policies

Your first line of defense as a traveling healthcare professional is to know the facility’s policies and protocols. These are often sent through email before the assignment.

“Make sure to read your emails and not just skim through them,” says Misty Hood, Risk Management Director at TNAA and a nurse. “Take the time to read through them because that’s how the facility communicates with you before starting your assignment. That way, you know what you are willing to accept and are not willing to accept.”

If you need additional clarifications after reviewing the policies, your agency should be a helpful resource connecting you to the right people to answer your questions.

Take Safety Precautions

Exposure to illnesses happens all the time on the job, but there are still precautions that you can take.

The CDC recommends healthcare professionals who are caring for a monkeypox patient to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, a gown, eye protection, and a NIOSH-approved particulate respirator equipped with N95 filters or higher. As always, it is also essential to keep your hands clean by washing them frequently with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Exposed? Here’s What to Do

If you were exposed to monkeypox while caring for an infected patient, be mindful of any symptoms you develop within the next 21 days. Additionally, notify:

  • Infection control, who will help the facility maintain the situation;
  • Occupational health, who can help travelers with their treatment;
  • The health department can advise on health monitoring and start contact tracing;
  • Your agency will bridge the gap between occupational health and your available benefits. As your employer, your agency will administer workers’ compensation benefits, should you need them. So, it is also imperative that you know your agency’s process for reporting workers comp.

The CDC says healthcare workers who have unprotected exposure to monkeypox patients don’t need to be excluded from work but should begin monitoring symptoms twice daily for 21 days following the last date of exposure.

So, before you go to work, ask yourself: Do I have a fever, did I take any medications that could mask a fever, or do I have a rash? If you report any of these symptoms, maintain communication with your facility supervisor and your agency. Your agency should be able to support you in multiple ways.

“Helping them navigate their benefits, navigate sick time – those are a few reasons we’re here,” Hood explained.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has renamed variants or clades of the monkeypox virus during the 2022 outbreak. However, at the time this article was published, no new name had been announced for the disease altogether, though the WHO plans to review potential suggestions in the future.

Our job board is a great place to search for your next travel nurse assignment. We have you covered with our housing page if housing is an issue. You can search for what you are looking for.

Resources

Monkeypox is an evolving disease, and this scale of an outbreak is a newer situation for the United States. Stay informed on current facts and guidelines provided by the CDC and review recent updates on its “What’s New and Updated” page. Additionally, you may find the below resources helpful as the outbreak continues.

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