As more and more businesses go remote, these are ways to be more effective and efficient on conference calls. Update: Since this story originally ran, the worldwide coronavirus outbreak has made video conferencing an essential component to keeping businesses running. This story originally ran in 2017, but the advice is as relevant as ever.
Here are 10 do’s and don’ts that I believe elevate the overall experience of a video conference.
Do: Mute your microphone whenever you’re not speaking — even if you’re alone in the room. Background noise can be an annoying distraction and stifle any meeting’s flow.
Do: Be aware of your video settings. Check if your microphone is muted before delivering a two-minute monologue that no one will hear.
Don’t: Position your camera too low, too high or hooked onto a different monitor. Weird camera angles can be very distracting — and unflattering — during video conference calls. Make sure your camera is eye level and on the monitor you plan to use for the conference.
Do: Make sure your room is well lit (side lighting is the best). Few things are worse than having a professional meeting while feeling like you’re talking to someone in a dungeon. Use natural light from windows or simply turn on the overhead light in the room to brighten up the conference.
Do: Wear appropriate clothing. I know it can be tempting — especially if you work from home — to wear a work shirt and athletic shorts but dress as if you’re meeting face to face. You never know if you’re going to have to get up suddenly or if your camera might fall. So wear clean, professional clothing for your video calls.
Do: Your wall art or decorations should be work-appropriate and your surroundings clean. If your room looks like a college dorm room after a bender, clean it or find a different room. This also includes your desk! Avoid having multiple coffee mugs, dishes and trash on the surface.
Do: Test your microphone before you video call, especially if it’s an important meeting. Test it by video conferencing your colleague before the meeting. Nothing is worse than trying to share something critical, and not being able to communicate clearly because your audio clarity and volume are poor.
Do: If you’re in a group call without video, introduce yourself before you talk. Consider something like “Hi it’s Jim, I have a question.” While several programs will notify you as to who is talking, conference line numbers will not. Therefore, be polite and introduce yourself.
Don’t: Check or read emails or peruse articles while on the video call. This also includes doing additional work beyond the call. It’s easy for other participant’s to tell if you aren’t fully focused and present during the video call.
Do: When you’re talking, look into the camera instead of looking at yourself talking on the computer screen. It will help others on the call feel like you’re 100 percent engaged and present.
It’s important to remember that video conferences are essentially in-person interactions that allow businesses to communicate more effectively.
Media headlines out did each other in broadcasting China’s 6.8% contraction in GDP in the first quarter this year. It was indeed breaking news in that it was the first ever contraction since China started reporting quarterly GDP data in 1992. However, beyond the headlines, there is surprisingly little that is newsworthy.
It is not telling us anything we didn’t know already. A deep contraction was widely expected because of the massive quarantine and lockdown implemented to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, which practically shut down the economy. For example, Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, ended its lockdown only on April 18 after 76 days.
Not surprisingly markets largely shrugged off the news. The S&P 500 rose 1.6% on April 17, after Nasdaq flipped into positive territory for the year the day before. Wall Street was not alone, Asian and European stocks also finished the week higher.
The slew of Beijing’s counter-cyclical policies to help the economy recover from COVID-19 has also been well and fully anticipated. Export rebate rates were raised on over 1,000 products to help exporters facing slumping demands. New infrastructure projects, many are planned and budgeted but now moved forward, have started in 25 provinces which will help prop up demand for industrial production and employment.
The People’s Bank of China, the central bank, has been adding liquidity to the financial system by cutting interest rates and reserve requirement ratio, as well as directing more lending to small and medium size businesses through loan guarantees. According to its data, bank loans grew by 11.5% year-on-year in March, the fastest growth rate since August 2018. This is an impressive feat.
China’s central bank is succeeding in raising bank credit growth in the midst of a massive economic contraction, something that is extremely difficult to do. None of these will bring about a V-shaped rebound, but they will pave the way for a recovery that will gather strength through the course of the second half of the year even if the global economy is still in recession.
The real news in China’s GDP contraction, which had come and gone hardly being noticed, is a policy document released without fanfare on March 30 outlining a set of wide-ranging structural reforms to be implemented in the aftermath of COVID-19. Ostensibly these structural reforms are needed, above and beyond the cyclical measures described, to revitalize an economy ravaged by COVID-19.
Upon closer scrutiny, however, it becomes clear that these are some of the deepest structural reforms that had been proposed and debated for the last two decades, and were strenuously resisted and successfully blocked or deferred by local governments. It appears that Beijing is taking advantage of COVID-19 and the unprecedented GDP contraction to ram through tough reforms that would otherwise be harder to do. What are these reforms?
These are deep and sweeping structural reforms regarding land use, the labor market, interest and exchange rates and the financial markets. They are what really matters if the Chinese economy is to become more market driven and efficient. On land use, current restrictions on how rural land can be sold and used for commercial purposes will be lifted, and the system of rural land acquisition and sales will be made market driven.
Behind these innocuous sounding policy-speak is the intention of slaying of one of communism’s sacred cows, the public ownership of land. Sweeping indeed. The removal of the household registration system, the hukou, is the centerpiece for reforming the labor market. This will be implemented nation-wide with the exceptions of a few mega-cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
For the tens of millions of migrant workers, they will be able to become fully-fledged urban residents in towns and cities where they are gainfully employed. They will be able to live with their families and have full access to urban health care, education and social welfare services.
Apart from lifting a highly discriminatory barrier that divides the Chinese population into two unequal tiers, at one stroke this reform will also increase urban consumption demand massively, especially in housing, while further enhancing the growth and dynamism of China’s burgeoning service sector.
The integration of benchmark lending and deposit rates with market rates will be the central plank of price reform in banking and finance, which will align them to become more market driven. The RMB exchange rate will be made more flexible. Civil servant salaries will be made comparable with the private sector.
The institutional infrastructure for listing, trading and delisting in the stock markets will be streamlined with stronger regulatory oversight, and the development of the bond market will be fast-tracked to offer an expanded range of products in size and varieties. And, finally, the opening up of the financial sector to full foreign participation will be accelerated.
Successfully implementing anyone of these structural reforms would be an achievement. Getting all of them done would be a game changer. This is clearly what Beijing intends to do by seizing the opportunity created by COVID-19 and the unprecedented GDP contraction. For those who welcome engagement with China, be prepared for a more dynamic and innovative Chinese economy.
For those who fear the rise of China, get ready to face a more determined China that marches to its own tune. Finally, the GDP contraction may well be the catalyst that Beijing needs to dispense with the GDP growth target altogether.
In the past decades, it has led provincial governments to boost production regardless of real demand in order to meet such targets, burdening China’s economic structure with wasteful over-capacity as a result. Allowing GDP growth to fluctuate with the rhythm of the business cycle would be an even greater achievement. That would be truly newsworthy.
In the ongoing battle between bosses and workers over returning to the office, recent data shows ... [+] getty
In the ongoing battle between bosses and workers over returning to the office, recent data shows more people are trudging back to the workplace. In the first week following Labor Day, office usage in 10 major metro areas neared 50% of 2020’s pre-pandemic attendance, reports Kastle Systems, a key-card property management company that tracks entries into office buildings.
There were more workers in the office last week than there have been since the pandemic started. However, in-office attendance is still lower than what it was before the virus outbreak. The in-office numbers may be low since Kastle’s data doesn’t include many of the city’s biggest real estate owners, including large law firms, banks, financial services and Wall Street firms.
Under 10% of employees are in the office five days a week. The number of fully remote workers fell from 28% in April to 16% as of mid-September. Train ridership is another indicator reflecting a return-to-office pickup after Labor Day. Many companies used the long weekend as the last gasp of freedom before ordering their employees back to headquarters.
After the long holiday weekend, 200,000 passengers rode the Long Island Rail Road into Manhattan. The number of riders was the highest level since March 2020. Commuters from Westchester and surrounding suburbs riding the Metro-North Railroad in the City hit a high point compared to the pandemic period with 174,900 riders. Additionally, New York City public transit data showed an increase in returning workers with subway ridership, having 3.7 million riders for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.
The Partnership for New York City predicts that there will ultimately be a tipping point when the majority return to office. According to the Partnership’s analysis, 54% of workers will ultimately return to an office setting by January 2023. Even the tech industry, which has been the most resistant to going back to an office, is nearing the tipping point. Currently, average daily office attendance by tech professionals is at 47%, and that number is expected to increase to 50% by January.
Shifting Power Dynamics
There is a power dynamic shift taking place between the employee and employer. Throughout 2021 and early this year, workers were in high demand. Desperately needing staff as the economy reopened, companies catered to the workers. Seemingly overnight, the mood dramatically changed. As inflation raged, wreaking havoc on the economy, along with other geopolitical and macro events, thousands of people were downsized, hiring freezes put in place and job offers rescinded.
Americans now find themselves in a period of austerity. As this plays out, the dynamics between employees and employers will dramatically change. Companies will start clamping down and wielding their power, and the first order of business will be the return to office. A study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that supervisors have “negative perceptions” of the work-from-home trend and said they’d prefer their staff to operate from an office setting.rity
The managers who responded to the survey were brutally honest. Nearly 70% replied that remote workers are “more easily replaceable than onsite workers.” About 62% contend that “full-time remote work is detrimental to employees’ career objectives and 72% say they would prefer all of their subordinates to be working in the office.”
The Hybrid Model
The dominant style of work is the hybrid model, promoted by tech companies, which calls for people to work from the office two or three days out of the week and the rest of the time from home—or wherever they so choose. However, while tech leadership offered fully remote and hybrid options, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google scooped up commercial real estate after prices plummeted, due to the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The companies are making a bold contrarian bet that Manhattan will bounce back and there will still be a need for people to work in offices. Facebook leased enough space in New York City to triple the amount of people that can work in the city. Apple, which has been in New York for at least a decade, plans to expand its footprint there. Google and Amazon are snatching up space in the city more than any other place in the United States.
Amazon recently paid about $1 billion to acquire the Lord & Taylor flagship building in Midtown Manhattan from WeWork. Collectively, the tech behemoths can accommodate over 20,000 workers. In hindsight, it looks like the tech giants were hedging their bets by offering flexible options, while scooping up real estate in case they needed to change their work style.
The Showdown: Workers Will Continue To Push For Remote Work Options
You will likely soon see a showdown. Many surveys over the last year or so show that employees adamantly responded that they would rather quit than commute back to an office. People have grown accustomed to a better work-life balance by being at home. They appreciate the autonomy and freedom that comes with the flexibility of choice. Their productivity and hours spent working are above reproach.
Runaway inflation has driven the costs of commuting into big cities. The prices of fuel, automobile maintenance, food, business clothing and other necessities will eat into their paycheck, which is already depressed, due to inflation, making the money worth less than it was only six months ago. The long, exhausting, soul-sucking and expensive commute, along with random acts of terrifying violence, is keeping workers from returning to their offices.
In the ongoing tug-of-war battle over companies pushing people to come back into major cities, such as Manhattan, business executives conveniently gloss over these real issues and pretend they don’t exist. If you are commuting into the Big Apple from one of the boroughs, Westchester, Long Island, the suburbs of Connecticut or New Jersey, your commute can easily take two-plus hours door-to-door roundtrip.
The timing is generous, as it doesn’t include the daily frustrations of train delays, constant work being done on the tracks and mechanical issues with the bus where everyone needs to get off and is left stranded on the side of the road until another bus can pick them up. When you come home, you’re tired and burned out.
You also have to worry about your physical safety. New York City can be a dangerous place. According to data from the New York City Police Department, “crime increased by 34.2% in April 2022,” compared to the same period last year. There has been a “43.5% increase in grand larceny” and “burglaries also increased by 39.4%,” compared to last year, which was high to begin with. In April alone, there were 1,261 robberies, 2,044 felony assaults, 3,867 instances of grand larceny and 105 shootings. These represent the reported acts, and the number of unreported incidents is likely much higher.
The most recent data from the New York City Police Department showed an overall increase in crime during August 2022 by 26% compared with August 2021, 38% increase in robbery, 34.7% increase in grand larceny and a 31.1% rise in burglary.
Rationale For Businesses To Promote In-Office Work
David Solomon, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, epitomized Wall Street’s view of not being in the office, saying remote work is an “aberration.” Wall Street banks are the most ardent proponents of getting people into the office. It’s reasonable that the leadership feels this way. The securities industry is highly regulated. They need to consider money laundering, insider trading, ponzi schemes, churning client accounts for higher commissions and other inappropriate activities. If all the bankers, brokers and traders are under one roof, it’s easier for the compliance, legal, risk, audit and regulatory personnel to keep tabs on them.
There is another rationale at play too. In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams has been a strong proponent of businesses getting their employees back into the office. As crime and violence escalated in the Big Apple, as there were fewer people around, Adams contends that with commuters coming back, there will be safety in numbers.
There is also an economic reason. If commuters from New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut suburbs won’t return, the ecosystem of restaurants, mom-and-pop shops, retail stores, nail salons, gyms and other small businesses will likely fail. This would cause job losses, empty streets, invite more crime and deter both workers and potential tourists from coming into New York City.
The Benefits Of Returning To An Office
Starting a new job is stressful. It’s even harder when you’re doing it remotely. If you’re just beginning to build a career, working remotely may serve as a roadblock to your future success. After over two years of being at home, you most likely lost touch with some or all of your social contacts. If you remain remote, you run the risk of feeling isolated and it will be difficult to cultivate a group of like-minded people.
For young adults, going to the office has positive social benefits. You will meet new people, make friends and build a network of alliances that could help you throughout your career. There are a host of benefits to being at the office. You can find mentors to help navigate your career. There will be serendipitous meetings in the hallways, cafeteria, elevator and bathrooms. These impromptu interactions add up over time. It makes your work life better—or at least more tolerable—by having cohorts that share the same experiences.
Universities and colleges across the U.S. are preparing for potential outbreaks of monkeypox this fall as students begin returning to campus amid an upswing in cases nationally, marking another public health challenge for schools to manage after years of grappling with Covid-19.
Dr. Ina Park, a professor at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, told Forbes that while monkeypox “does pose a risk to students,” the risk is different from that posed by Covid-19 and there is not a concern about catching the virus through everyday activity or passing someone in a corridor.
The main issue is that students live together in close quarters and gather to socialize, including hookups where close contact like kissing, skin-to-skin contact and sex might happen, Park explained, adding that the virus could also potentially be transmitted through sharing clothing or sleeping in someone else’s bed.
Numerous universities told Forbes they are in contact with local and federal health authorities to plan their responses and some schools, such as Texas A&M University, said clinicians at student health services have taken part in CDC training related to the disease.
Other universities, including Georgetown University and NYU, said student health services are able to carry out the specific testing needed to diagnose monkeypox.
Disinfecting desks or public toilets—surfaces the monkeypox virus can live on—could be one way of minimizing the risk to students, Park said, as would vaccinating students who are men or transgender people who have sex with men and expanding access to all college students when supplies permit.
Evidence-based education—especially alerting people to “the fact that monkeypox is transmitted through intimate contact”—will be crucial, Dr. Marina Klein, a professor of medicine at McGill University, told Forbes, as well as training campus health services to be on the lookout for potential monkeypox cases.
Monkeypox primarily spreads through close physical contact, as well as contact with contaminated objects and surfaces like bedding or clothing. While infections are clustered among men who have sex with men—data suggests the outbreak is largely driven by sexual activity—there have also been cases in women and children and experts told Forbes there is a risk the disease could spill over into other groups and obviously these communities are not self contained and members also attend university.
Experts stress the importance of balancing the provision of accurate information about the risks of monkeypox and how it is spreading and avoiding stigmatizing the groups most affected. Campuses also face a number of unique challenges when managing disease outbreaks, the American College Health Association (ACHA), told Forbes, such as how to isolate people with limited housing available and managing the disruption a two-to-four week isolation period can cause to students. The organization said it is working to develop tailored guidance for campus settings.
What To Watch For
How universities communicate about monkeypox. Several universities told Forbes they are following guidance from local health departments and the CDC, though this advice does not specifically address university settings. Many universities have set up informational websites providing resources and guidance on the virus, while some like NYU, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University and the University of Michigan told Forbes they have also emailed staff and students about the outbreak and will provide updates as the situation evolves.
Other universities have gone, or plan to go, further in communication efforts: the University of Florida told Forbes it is increasingly promoting safe sex messaging and Texas A&M University said the school is pushing out information on the disease via social media and flyers in residence halls and high-traffic areas. Guidance and protocols are sure to evolve as the outbreak does; NYU spokesperson John Beckman told Forbes the university is “closely following developments” and staff at the student health center are on “heightened alert” to respond.
There are also broader impacts of monkeypox to be considered, Cornell’s director of media relations Rebecca Valli told Forbes, adding that the school is considering “the potential academic impacts and accommodations which may arise” should a student come down with monkeypox.
There have been 10,768 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the U.S., according to numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The overwhelming majority of cases have been among men who identify as gay, bisexual or who have sex with men and transmission is suspected to have occurred through sexual activity in most of those infected.
The World Health Organization , the White House and a number of local jurisdictions have declared the outbreak a public health emergency and a vaccination campaign is underway to target groups most at risk of the virus. Supplies of Jynneos, the only vaccine licensed against monkeypox in the U.S., do not come close to meeting demand for the shot and U.S. officials have greenlit a dose-saving strategy to stretch the stockpile.
Though the outbreak is largely, though not exclusively, limited to men who have sex with men and spread through sexual activity, concern has grown among officials that the disease could spread more widely. The close-contact campus environment, notably dorms, contact sports and sex, have flagged colleges as more likely to experience outbreaks. At least five schools—Georgetown University, George Washington University, the University of Texas at Austin, Bucknell University and West Chester University—have already reported monkeypox cases, according to STAT News.
McGill’s Klein said it is “inevitable” that monkeypox will spillover into populations other than men who have sex with men, which could happen more easily in situations where people are living in close quarters. “There is no need for panic,” Klein stressed, urging strong and sensible messaging on how monkeypox is transmitted and reinforcing “messages about how to be safe when having sex,” especially with casual contacts. “Making vaccines easily available in safe spaces for those at risk would also go a long way to helping stem any potential outbreaks on campus,” Klein added.
One of the first public health measures triggered by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was mass closure of daycares and schools. Indeed, the proximity with which students and teachers congregate in close quarters means that viruses are more apt to spread in such conditions, which made school closures a sensible means of slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Then, last week, news broke that an Illinois daycare worker tested positive for monkeypox. While the worker is isolating, it remains unclear how many children — if any — were exposed to the virus while the infected person was at work. The news raises questions over whether schools, daycares, and the like are safe — from monkeypox — for both workers and their charges.
“An adult at a day-care center in the Rantoul area has tested positive for a case of monkeypox,” Dr. Sameer Vohra, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said at a news briefing. “Screening of children and other staff is taking place now.” As parents gear up to send their children back to school, should they expect monkeypox outbreaks to occur in school and daycare settings?
The answer to that requires understanding the way that monkeypox spreads, and how it differs from COVID-19. Monkeypox symptoms start within two to three weeks after exposure to the virus. The primary mode of transmission for monkeypox is skin-on-skin contact or contact with contaminated items.
Currently, there are more than 7,500 confirmed cases in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is nearly double the number of cases since late July. Last week, the Biden administration declared the monkeypox a public health emergency. While transmission is mostly occurring in adult men, in the United States there have been at least five reported pediatric cases.
Yet experts are optimistic about the safety of schools. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases and associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California–Davis, told Salon he doesn’t anticipate K-12 schools to be particularly rife with outbreaks this school year.“Since transmission is primarily via prolonged skin to skin contact,” Blumberg said. “So of course children horse around and they might have skin to skin contact, but usually it’s not prolonged during most activities.”
Blumberg added that another way monkeypox could be transmitted in a school setting is via contaminated linens or bedding. Unlike COVID-19, which is more transmissible but usually less severe for children, monkeypox is less transmissible but can pose a higher risk of severe disease for children under the age of 8.
“I suppose during nap time if kids are sharing bedding or linens, it’s possible that there might be transmission,” Blumberg said. “But most schools and daycares, for now, have their own dedicated area, their own dedicated space, for nap time.”
Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist University of Illinois–Chicago, told Salon via email that monkeypox could potentially spread at school “by touching someone’s rash/lesions, exchanging body fluids via kissing or prolonged face to face contact, hugging, etc.”
“So, it’s best (for [monkeypox virus] and for COVID-19 reasons) to emphasize giving each other space in the classroom and not touching one another,” Wallace said. According to the CDC, monkeypox spreads through direct contact with body fluids or sores on the body of someone who has monkeypox. It can also spread through sores that have been in contact with someone who is infected, or materials that have touched body fluids — for example, clothing or bedsheets.
Monkeypox may also spread through respiratory droplets when people have close face-to-face contact. However, experts say this is not the main mode of transmission. According to data from the World Health Organization, 91.4 percent of cases have been linked to sexual contact.
Wallace agreed it is possible for a monkeypox outbreak to occur in communities like college campuses. Understandably, this raises questions about college students in a university setting. “If students are having prolonged skin to skin contact with many others, such as having sex with multiple partners, that will be a risk factor for transmission,” Blumberg said. “And in that case, it’s easy to prevent transmission — if somebody has a rash, then they shouldn’t have prolonged skin to skin contact with others until they get that rash diagnosed and make sure it’s non-infectious.”
Wallace agreed it is possible for a monkeypox outbreak to occur in communities like college campuses.”It is important that colleges and universities are prepared to provide public health education/information about monkeypox to students, have testing/medical resources available to if students develop symptoms, and have an isolation protocol ready,” Wallace said.
Still, there are reasons to protect younger children from any exposure to monkeypox. Unlike COVID-19, which is more transmissible but usually less severe for children, monkeypox is less transmissible but can pose a higher risk of severe disease for children under the age of 8, as noted by the CDC based on limited pediatric data on infection.
“Children who have monkeypox are at higher risk for severe disease and higher fatality rates have been reported in children less than eight years of age,” Blumberg said. “There’s a variety of complications that may occur, including inflammation of different organs, myocarditis, meningitis” — hence the concern about young children being infected.
Notably, there are vaccines for monkeypox, although supply is limited. As Salon previously reported, the U.S. has released the Jynneos vaccine against monkeypox from the Strategic National Stockpile. Meanwhile, those who received the smallpox vaccine before it stopped being regularly given in the 1970s will likely have protection against monkeypox. While the Jynneos vaccine isn’t being publicly offered to kids nor is it licensed for children, those who have been exposed to it can be vaccinated if it is recommended by the local health departments.
As noted by CDC, Jynneos has been used in studies as part of vaccines against other diseases including tuberculosis, measles, and Ebola. These studies included children as young as five months old, and were found to have no adverse health effects or safety concerns. For worried parents, Blumberg said it is a good idea to make sure that daycares and schools and policies are in place to prohibit potentially infectious staff and students.
“Most schools and daycares do have policies in place so that if somebody is suspected to be infectious to others, they are excluded — and for monkeypox, the key would be an undiagnosed rash,” Blumberg said. “There are many different infections that may cause rashes that may be transmitted to others — so schools and daycares should be pretty experienced with screening for rashes.”
Wallace emphasized how different monkeypox is from SARS-CoV-2, stating bluntly: “this is not COVID-19.””It spreads very differently and is nowhere near as contagious,” Wallace said. “If your child develops symptoms, definitely see a health care provider before sending the child back to school.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sparked confusion over monkeypox this week after deleting a recommendation for travelers to wear face masks to protect against the disease, a u-turn that shed light on the different ways the virus spreads amid escalating outbreaks across Europe and North America—here’s what to know about how the disease is transmitted.
Monkeypox does not spread easily between people and is transmitted through prolonged close contact with an infected animal or person or objects contaminated by someone with an infection like towels, clothes or bedding.The virus mainly spreads via direct contact with infectious monkeypox sores, scabs or bodily fluids, though it can also be transmitted via respiratory droplets, the kind of large particles produced when people breathe, talk, cough or sneeze.
These respiratory droplets do not travel very far and drop to the ground quickly, Dr. Jake Dunning, an infectious disease researcher at the University of Oxford, told Forbes. It’s not clear whether or not monkeypox can also spread via aerosol—tiny liquid particles that can linger in the air—a mode of transmission often used to designate a disease “airborne.”
Dunning called the term “unhelpful” as many people use it to describe different things, though said it is possible that short-range aerosols could be involved in transmitting monkeypox. More research will be needed to know for sure, he said, adding that he would be “surprised” if research showed long-range aerosol transmission, given current evidence suggesting long-range transmission is unlikely.
If monkeypox can be transmitted sexually. A significant portion of the monkeypox cases identified in Europe and the U.K. have been among men who identify as gay or bisexual or have sex with other men with no history of travel to parts of Africa where monkeypox is endemic. While the virus is not known to be sexually transmitted—though a degree of close physical contact can be assumed—the pattern had scientists wondering if other modes of transmission were involved and experts have cautionedagainststigmatizingmembers of the community.
Experts stress the risk from monkeypox is not limited to men who have sex with men and note the pattern could be explained by other factors. These could include health officials searching for, and thus finding, more cases within this group, members of the community being more proactive about their sexual health and more likely to visit clinics or the disease spreading thorugh sexual and social networks.
Researchers in Europe recently detected monkeypox virus in the semen of several patients, however, suggesting direct sexual transmission may be possible. Further research will be needed to determine whether this is the case, Dunning said. It’s not clear how the virus came to be in the seminal fluid or whether it was “added” at some point after ejaculation, he explained.
On Monday, the CDC raised its alert on monkeypox to Level 2—the level below advising against non-essential travel—updating its guidance and encouraging travelers to “practice enhanced precautions.” The guidance, which stressed the risk to the general public is “low,” advised those traveling to areas where there’s a monkeypox outbreak to avoid contact with sick people, contaminated materials and wild animals.
It also suggested travelers wear masks to help protect against monkeypox, though the agency quietly removed this recommendation, stating it had “caused confusion.” The agency does still recommend face masks, alongside other protective gear, for those who may be in close contact with a confirmed monkeypox patient and health workers caring for monkeypox patients. Dr. Hugh Adler from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Oxford’s Dunning both told Forbes masks are worn in clinical settings as part of a standard set of protective equipment for dealing with diseases like monkeypox.
On their own, masks may not be that useful in protecting against monkeypox given the multiple ways the disease can spread, they added. Given the very low risk of the general public coming into contact with someone with monkeypox, Adler said wearing masks doesn’t make a lot of sense. Dunning said the debate over masks is similar to discussions going on around the world with several other emerging infections and is “heavily influenced” by the Covid-19 pandemic.
45. That’s how many cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in the U.S. as of Thursday, according to the CDC. More than 1,300 cases have been confirmed in nearly 30 countries outside of Africa, according to public health data compiled by Global.Health, a team of researchers and technologists tracking the outbreak. The majority of these are in Europe—the U.K. has identified 321 cases, Spain 198, Portugal 191 and Germany 113—with a notable cluster of 110 cases in Canada. More cases are suspected but not confirmed.
Orthopoxviruses like monkeypox are “hardy and stable” and can survive for weeks or months in shed skin flakes and dust if the conditions are right, Oxford’s Dunning told Forbes. This means items like contaminated bedding or towels used by monkeypox patients could theoretically pose an infection risk for a long time. “Clouds” of skin flakes or dust that might form when changing the bed of an infected person could, for example, pose a risk of infection, Dunning added, though more research will be needed to examine the possibility.
Monkeypox gaining a foothold. Monkeypox is not a new virus and is a well-known entity that has been circulating in parts of Central and Western Africa for decades. It’s typically mild and goes away on its own in a month or so—though it can be lethal and is more dangerous for children and pregnant people—and there are several useful vaccines and treatments available designed to tackle smallpox, a similar virus that has been eradicated.
Experts, including WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, say the sudden and unexpected appearance of monkeypox in multiple countries at once suggests the virus may have been circulating undetected in non-endemic countries for some time, though it’s unclear for how long. While Tedros said it’s not too late to contain the outbreaks at the moment, he warned there is a “real” risk of the virus “becoming established in non-endemic countries.”
It’s possible the virus could spread to wild animal populations and gain a foothold outside of Africa that way, several researchers studying how viruses spread from animals to humans told Forbes. Rodents—which are suspected of harboring the virus in Africa—and squirrels are the most likely animal reservoirs in the U.S., University of Minnesota virologist Matthew Aliota said, and Georgetown University’s Ellen Carlin said the animals should be an “important planning consideration” for officials tackling the outbreak.