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As monkeypox spreads, how can you avoid catching it?

How can you stay safe from monkeypox?
How can you stay safe from monkeypox? 02:35

NEW YORK -- With monkeypox spreading, the Biden administration has appointed a czar to oversee the national response, and as many still struggle to get a vaccine, the question is how can you stay safe in the meantime?

Monkeypox is almost never fatal like COVID-19 can be, but monkeypox can be excruciatingly painful.

It's estimated that some 150,000 people in New York could be at high risk for monkeypox, and as CBS2's Dick Brennan reports, there are important steps you can take to avoid catching it.

In New York City right now, there are 1,512 cases of monkeypox. So far, it's primarily affected men who have had sex with men, but anyone can get it.

MONKEYPOX IN NYC: Identifying symptoms, prevention tips, how to get a vaccine and more

So how does it spread?

"Sexual contact is one of the primary ways but even very close contact. So if you're living with somebody who has monkeypox and you come in contact with their respiratory droplets," said Dr. Purvi Parikh, an immunologist with the Allergy and Asthma Network.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it can also be spread by "touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox."

But Parikh says in that case, "The risk of transmission is very low. It's usually from very prolonged contact with bodily fluids of someone who has monkeypox."

How do you know if you've contracted monkeypox? The signs are similar to any virus, with a few additions.

"The flu-like illness, you know, coughing, sneezing, fever, but you know, there are a few characteristic things like swollen lymph nodes and that rash, which is those fluid-filled vesicles," Parikh said.

The key to stopping monkeypox is to get the vaccine, but the rollout has been slow, to say the least.

"We need at least 300,000 doses because it's a two-dose course and that's just for [the 150,000 at-risk New Yorkers]. But unfortunately, I think the time to contain this outbreak is waning," said Jason Cianciotto, vice president of communications and public policy for GMHC, Gay Men's Health Crisis.

READ MORE: GMHC working to offer support for New Yorkers amid monkeypox outbreak   

"I don't think we can wait for a vaccine to come and protect us. We need to protect us ourselves before we even have access to vaccines," said Waleed Javaid, an epidemiologist and infection control director for Mount Sinai Hospital.

Without a vaccine, how can you stay safe from monkeypox? It's actually similar to fighting COVID.

"Frequent hand-washing, even the masking helps in some ways because, for example, some of the symptoms of monkeypox are respiratory. But luckily, the good news is it's not as contagious as COVID," Parikh said.

The CDC also says a person can spread monkeypox to others from the  time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts two to four weeks.

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