Monkeypox: What Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities Need to Know
With more than 25,000 cases of monkeypox worldwide and at least 10 reported deaths, the World Health Organization has declared this disease a global health emergency — the agency’s highest health alert. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has deemed it a public health emergency. Below are facts about the monkeypox virus, followed by a Q&A with Laurie Sewell, president and CEO of Servicon, Southern California’s leading environmental services (EVS) provider.
What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by an infection from the monkeypox virus. The virus belongs to the orthopoxvirus genus, which also includes the virus that causes smallpox. It is called monkeypox because it was first detected in monkeys, but the virus transmits from person to person, and you do not need to be in close contact with animals to contract it.
The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Cases outside Africa have been mainly tied to international travel or imported animals.
Symptoms of monkeypox in humans usually appear between seven and 14 days, although they can occur anytime within a five- and 21-day window. Symptoms include:
• Muscle aches
• Swollen lymph nodes
Individuals Infected with monkeypox typically develop a rash that starts on the face and spreads to other parts of the body within three days of having a fever. The rash forms pimple-like lesions that can fill with pus and blister before falling off. Symptoms usually last between two and four weeks.
Serious health complications that can arise from monkeypox and should not be taken lightly include:
• Severe scars on the face, arms, and legs
• Other infections
• Death, in rare cases (approximately 1 percent)
Q & A With Servicon President and CEO Laurie Sewell:
What challenges does monkeypox pose for healthcare facilities and hospitals?
A. With COVID-19 still a threat — on top of lingering supply chain issues, inflation and staffing shortages — dealing with another global health emergency as contagious as monkeypox that is difficult to treat can overwhelm hospitals and other healthcare facilities physically, mentally and financially. It can also make overburdened healthcare workers more susceptible to contracting and spreading the virus.
Do you think the available vaccine will make a difference to healthcare facilities are facing due to monkeypox?
A. Servicon is a strong advocate for vaccines. We have a COVID-19 vaccination rate of over 90 percent among our team members, which we credit with keeping them and our clients and communities safer. Although the monkeypox vaccine is not as widely available as those for COVID, vaccination is the best way for at-risk groups to avoid severe illness from monkeypox or spreading it to others, especially unknowingly.
How can healthcare facilities and hospitals be prepared if monkeypox continues to rise?
A. Healthcare facilities can familiarize themselves with the in-depth monkeypox articles and updates, including specific infection-prevention strategies, on our website. Servicon’s Infection Prevention Task Force meets weekly to review the latest health and safety information from trusted government agencies and interpret what it means for our industry. We use various mediums, including social media, email and town hall meetings, to communicate necessary information to our clients and employees, usually in English and Spanish to ensure a wide reach and broad understanding.
Given the number of trusted agencies and their different styles and platforms of communication, we recommend healthcare facilities work with a partner such as Servicon that knows how to navigate the various national, state, and local guidelines and regulations. Servicon has dedicated significant time and resources to this, especially throughout the pandemic, which has equipped us for handling monkeypox — and whatever comes next.
What procedures are you employing to keep people safe?
A. The infection-prevention procedures and safety protocols we implemented during the pandemic are very effective in preventing the spread of monkeypox and eliminating the virus. Our employees have received ongoing training throughout the pandemic and are fully prepared to combat monkeypox and keep themselves and our clients safe.
Are there distinctions between preparing for monkeypox and COVID-19?
A. The primary distinction between preparing to combat COVID and monkeypox is communicating the differences between the viruses. While less airborne than SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19— monkeypox lives longer on surfaces, including linens such as clothes and bedding. So, while most cleaning and disinfecting protocols remain the same, the areas of concern differ. The differences need to be communicated clearly to people, especially healthcare workers. Further, Servicon uses PPE that protects our employees from the SARS-CoV-2 and monkeypox viruses.
What changes do you see in disinfecting procedures in the coming five years?
A. We hope the pandemic will be far behind us within five years. However, the interconnectivity of the modern world, continued environmental degradation, and rise of the anti-vaccine/anti-science movement appears destined to lead to more global health emergencies. Hopefully, not to the level of the pandemic, but we should anticipate outbreaks like monkeypox will become more frequent.
This means infection prevention is not going away but must be the baseline of operation within our industry. New technologies, such as UV light may become more scalable and common in the years ahead. Yet cleaning for health and focusing on infection prevention, including proper cleaning and responsible disinfection, is — and will remain — key. Companies will need to dedicate resources to infection prevention. The risks are not going away, and the time for healthcare facilities to prepare for future outbreaks is now.
Laurie Sewell is president and CEO of Servicon, a leading hospital environmental services (EVS) provider headquartered in Southern California that operates with a mission: to elevate the industry and provide healthy environments for people to thrive. As a privately held, women-owned and operated company, Servicon works and lives by its vision of creating a better working future. To learn more about our EVS services and social and sustainability accomplishments, visit servicon.com or contact us.