Per the CDC, as of August 31, 2022, there were 18,989 total confirmed Mpox cases in the U.S., a number that many officials argue is an undercount. As federal, state, and local agencies continue to undergo response and recovery efforts for COVID-19 while also facing the wildfire and hurricane seasons, devastating flooding, and heat waves, this outbreak poses many challenges surrounding public outreach and communications, immunizations, isolation and quarantine, operational coordination, staff wellness, and more. Below, CONSTANT provides guidance for the general public and public health decision-makers.
What Should the General Public Know about Mpox?
Communications to the general public should include information such as:
- Signs and symptoms of Mpox, including rash, fever, chills, exhaustion, swollen lymph nodes, aches, and respiratory symptoms.
- Routes of Mpox transmission (i.e., direct contact with infectious rash, skin-to-skin contact, respiratory droplets, etc.).
- Lists of activities that exacerbate the risk of contracting Mpox and steps that individuals can take to lower the risk of contracting Mpox.
- Course of action to be taken by an individual who thinks s/he may be infected with Mpox.
- Trusted resources where citizens can receive information.
Acknowledging the Challenges with Mpox Public Messaging
Between May 17 and August 31, 2022, the CDC reported that 97% of U.S. Mpox cases with available data occurred in men, with a significant number of these individuals reporting recent engagement in male-to-male sexual or close intimate contact. However, anyone can catch the virus through close skin-to-skin contact. So how should public health officials communicate with their constituents in a way that provides prioritized messages to the populations most at risk while avoiding contributing to stigmatization?
Leveraging COVID-19 Lessons Learned for Mpox Response
Mpox and COVID-19 have clinical differences in signs and symptoms, transmission, required isolation and quarantine, methods of prevention, etc. However, some of the lessons learned from COVID-19 response can be carried over as agencies respond to Mpox at the federal, state, and local level. As your jurisdiction responds to Mpox, leverage the efforts undertaken at an unprecedented level during COVID-19 to position your agency to be able to effectively provide service to the public. Whether COVID-19 response uncovered strengths that should persist during Mpox response or areas for improvement that should be mitigated through implementing corrective actions, or both, most jurisdictions are more prepared for Mpox than they have ever been previously as a result of the last 2.5+ years of infectious disease response.
CONSTANT is here for you. If your agency needs help with Mpox outreach campaigns or preparedness planning, contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.