By Adam R. YoungA. Scott Hecker, Patrick D. Joyce, Mark A. Lies, II, James L. CurtisBrent I. Clark, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: The WHO and the CDC issued statements and FAQs on the monkeypox disease, declaring the disease a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.”

On July 23, 2022, the WHO declared monkeypox a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” and issued a set of Temporary Recommendations to address a multi-country outbreak of monkeypox. These recommendations apply differently to countries with no known transmission versus those with known human-to-human transmission. For countries with known human-to-human transmission, the WHO recommends implementing response actions with the goal of stopping human-to-human transmission, implementing strategies to protect vulnerable groups, and engaging with affected communities to raise awareness about monkeypox transmission. The WHO also recommends various public health measures such as increasing laboratory testing capacity and assisting local public health authorities with creating messaging for those who contract or are exposed to monkeypox.

No Specific Employer Action Plan Required at This Time

Unlike COVID, which is transmitted in the air, monkeypox’s primary route of transmission is through skin to skin contact with someone who has the disease. Accordingly, with the exception of the healthcare industry, monkeypox is currently viewed as a public health hazard and not a workplace health hazard. As such, there are no specific federal, state, or local rules that address monkeypox precautions in the workplace. As with COVID-19, we recommend tracking CDC guidance related to monkeypox and taking the necessary steps to abate any potential hazard in the workplace that may arise. However, as of the publication of this blog, neither the CDC nor OSHA have issued workplace guidance related to monkeypox other than in the healthcare industry. It is possible CDC or OSHA may issue workplace guidance related to monkeypox in the future, however, at this time employers do not need to restart COVID-19 protocols to address monkeypox.

It should also be noted that employees who contract or who are treated for monkeypox may have certain protections under Federal and state law against discrimination. For example, monkeypox can be considered a “serious” health condition under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that would entitle an employee to a qualifying leave for treatment and reinstatement to their former job after they have been treated. Likewise, the employee may have some protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if the disease were to be considered or result in a “disability” entitling the employee to a leave for treatment or an “accommodation” upon returning to work if the disease were to result in a disability after treatment.

Signs and symptoms

The WHO indicates that the incubation period of monkeypox is usually from 6 to 13 days but can range from 5 to 21 days. This means that individuals could develop symptoms 5-21 days after exposure to the illness.

Centers for Disease Control on Monkeypox

The CDC is saying that an outbreak of monkeypox is currently spreading across several countries that are not typical sources of monkeypox infections, including the United States. “Over 99% of people who get this form of the disease are likely to survive. However, people with weakened immune systems, children under 8 years of age, people with a history of eczema, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be more likely to get seriously ill or die.”

The infection can be divided into two periods:

  • The invasion period (lasts between 0–5 days) characterized by fever, intense headache, lymphadenopathy (swelling of the lymph nodes), back pain, myalgia (muscle aches) and intense asthenia (lack of energy). Lymphadenopathy is a distinctive feature of monkeypox compared to other diseases that may initially appear similar (chickenpox, measles, smallpox)
  • The skin eruption usually begins within 1–3 days of appearance of fever. The rash tends to be more concentrated on the face and extremities rather than on the trunk.

For more information on this or any related topic, please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.