Monkeypox resources and recommendations for our care providers
This communication applies to the Commercial and Medicare Advantage programs from Empire BlueCross BlueShield (Empire).
We are carefully monitoring the recent outbreak of monkeypox infections in the U.S. and are working to support our members and our network care providers with information to help you respond appropriately in the context of your patient population.
The best source of up-to-date information is at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which has a dedicated monkeypox page for healthcare professionals.
In addition to resources for care providers, the CDC has developed educational materials for the public, available for free download online.
Who can become infected?
With this recent outbreak, monkeypox has spread through close, intimate contact with someone who has monkeypox. Many cases initially occurred in men who have sex with men. However, anyone can get monkeypox.
How dangerous is the disease?
Monkeypox virus belongs to poxvirus family and infection is rarely fatal. Patients whose immune system is compromised are most at risk for severe disease, along with children younger than 8 years old, pregnant and breastfeeding people, and people with a history of atopic dermatitis or other active skin conditions.
What are monkeypox symptoms?
Patients often have a characteristic rash (well-circumscribed, firm, or hard macules evolving to vesicles or pustules) on a single site on the body. Patients may also present with a fever and muscle aches. The rash may start in the genital and perianal areas. The lesions are painful when they initially emerge, but can become itchy as they heal, and then go away after two to four weeks. Symptoms can be similar or occur at the same time as sexually transmitted infections.
How does monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox does not spread easily between people without close contact. Person-to-person transmission is possible by skin-to-skin contact with body fluids or monkeypox sores, or respiratory droplets during prolonged face-to-face contact, and less likely through contaminated items such as bedding, clothing, or towels. Patients are contagious until the scabs heal and are replaced by new skin.
Is there a monkeypox vaccine?
Yes, although at the time of this writing, availability is limited. Smallpox and monkeypox vaccines are effective at protecting people against monkeypox when given before exposure to monkeypox, and vaccination after a monkeypox exposure may help prevent the disease or make it less severe. You can access the CDC’s vaccination updates online.
How can monkeypox be treated?
There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections. However, antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections.
Do I need to report a case of suspected monkeypox?
Yes. Contact your state health department if you have a patient with monkeypox. They can help with testing and exposure precautions.
What are the behavioral health impacts of monkeypox?
Studies reporting psychiatric symptoms have indicated that the presence of anxiety, depression, or low mood is common among hospitalized patients with monkeypox infection. Care providers can help by listening with compassion, understanding underlying behavioral health concerns that may be heightened during isolation, and refer patients to the appropriate level of support following a monkeypox diagnosis.
September 2022 Newsletter