What people with eczema should know about their risk of monkeypox

There have been many prominent discussions online about the stigma of responding to the monkeypox outbreak, in part because the disease causes visible skin symptoms, which people with chronic skin conditions understand all too well. .

On TwitterPeople with eczema — a common skin condition that affects about 7% of American adults — have shared valid concerns about their high risk of possible complications from monkeypox and lack of access to the vaccine in general.

Currently, the monkeypox epidemic is overwhelmingly affecting the LGBTQ+ community, specifically men who have sex with men, but that doesn’t mean that some of these people don’t have eczema, or that other people with high risk of complications, including somebody with eczema or those who are immunocompromised, must be excluded from the public health response as the outbreak continues.

So what’s the problem here? What is the potential impact of monkeypox on people with eczema? Ahead, the experts break down what we know so far.

First, a bit of information on monkeypox and eczema as separate conditions.

Eczema, medically known as atopic dermatitis, is an umbrella term for a group of skin disorders that typically cause dry, itchy, inflamed, and irritated skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Eczema is not contagious and the causes of the disease are not fully understood, although experts believe there may be genetic and immune system links involved. Eczema can trigger a rash on various areas of skin, as well as small, raised bumps that may ooze or scab over in some people.

Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This virus is related to the smallpox virus, which also causes smallpox. Monkeypox usually presents with a distinct rash that can be painful, along with flu-like symptoms. Disease is contagious and, in the current outbreak, spread primarily through close and prolonged skin-to-skin contact, including direct contact with monkeypox lesions, scabs or bodily fluids from someone with the virus, according to the CDC . However, the virus has historically been known to spread in a variety of ways, including through respiratory secretions and by coming into contact with contaminated objects, including fabrics.

The CDC warns that people with certain skin conditions, with a strong emphasis on eczema, are at higher risk of severe illness from monkeypox, if infected. But why? “Eczema affects the integrity of the skin barrier and immune system of the skin, making the skin more vulnerable to the development of infections, including monkeypox infection,” says Howa Yeung, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Emory University School of Medicine. SELF.

Essentially, people with eczema “have a weaker skin barrier,” Cindy Wassef, MD, assistant professor at the Rutgers Center for Dermatology, tells SELF. “Dry, cracked skin makes it easier for viruses and bacteria to enter the skin, including monkeypox,” she explains.

Monkeypox is usually a self-limiting illness, lasting between two and four weeks, according to the CDC. But in severe cases, especially in people who are very young, pregnant, immunocompromised, or have a history of eczema, the infection can lead to hospitalization or even death.

What should people with eczema know about monkeypox vaccines?

There are two different vaccines to be aware of: Jynneos (Imvanex) and ACAM2000 (Imvamune). They are licensed to prevent smallpox, but also work to reduce the risk of serious monkeypox infection, according to the CDC.

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