LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Despite monkeypox’s status as the hot topic in the media, you shouldn’t let your guard down about COVID-19 says Michael Zaroukian, Chief Medical Information Officer of Sparrow Health System.

With monkeypox officially declared a public health emergency and COVID going nowhere, Americans have dual health crises to worry about.

However, monkeypox is much more conditional than COVID-19, said Zaroukian.

“If you take the population at large, there’s much greater likelihood of acquiring COVID-19 than there is monkeypox,” Zaroukian said.

COVID-19 is much more easily spread than monkeypox, which spreads most commonly through direct skin-to-skin contact.

“As we all know with COVID, the more likely you are to be exposed to a person and do so without proper vaccination or social distancing precautions, the more likely you are to get it,” Zaroukian said. “With monkeypox, the great majority of the population is still not susceptible. It relates to individuals who have close, generally skin-to-skin, skin-to-sore contact with another person.”

Fewer people are considered at-risk for monkeypox than COVID-19, said Zaroukian.

Research shows the demographic most at risk for monkeypox are men who have sex with men, and have prolonged skin-to-skin to contact.

Though it’s not nearly as likely, it is possible for monkeypox to be spread through respiratory droplets, Zaroukian said.   

“Monkeypox is contagious in its own way. It’s not as contagious through the air. It takes much closer contact for a much longer period for monkeypox to be transmitted through respiratory droplets,” Zaroukian said.  

COVID-19 has a much higher likelihood to be fatal than monkeypox, said Zaroukian.

“Monkeypox is nowhere near as fatal as COVID. COVID kills people quite commonly. Monkeypox in the United States essentially doesn’t. It’s the severely immunocompromised patient, like cancer patients, that are at risk,” Zaroukian said.

Zaroukian said practical precautions to avoid monkeypox include handwashing and avoiding any contact with sores, lesions or garments worn by somebody who may be infected with monkeypox.

In Michigan, there have been 99 reported cases of monkeypox, the highest number of cases currently is in New York, which has 2,376 reported cases.

“The concern is there. It’s not considered at this point to be overwhelming the health system. It does mean that our patients, at least some of them, are at risk. It’s our duty and opportunity to educate them on the risk factors,” Zaroukian.

Monkeypox vaccinations, which are now being injected intradermally, have a limited supply. Zaroukian said those who are at risk are the highest priority for receiving one.

If you are generally healthy, you shouldn’t worry about rushing out to get one.

“It is very much conditional. Not everyone is at risk. The people who are at highest risk are those who are at highest exposure – men who have sex with men, particularly with multiple sexual partners, people who have been in areas where it’s prevalent – those are people we’d recommend for immunization,” Zaroukian said.

Zaroukian said receiving a vaccine within four to 14 days of exposure can either prevent monkeypox as an outbreak on the individual, or at least significantly lessen the symptoms.

The recovery process of monkeypox is a long one, taking two to four weeks. Anybody with sores from monkeypox should isolate themselves, and make sure the affected parts of their body are sufficiently covered if in public, Zaroukian said.

“A sore on the skin may come on six to seven days after exposure. That will be a spot, then it will turn into a blister, then it will turn it something that looks like it has pus in it. That will rupture, and finally, over the course of two to four weeks it will fade back to normal skin. All during that time, it’s infectious,” Zaroukian said.

If you are concerned that you have been exposed to monkeypox, or you have sores on your body, Zaroukian said it is very important that you contact your healthcare provider.

For more information about monkeypox, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.