woman putting on mask

Monkeypox has been declared a public health emergency, and to prepare for a potential outbreak, long-term care providers can take a page out of their COVID-19 pandemic playbooks, according to experts.

“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has not provided specific guidance regarding monkeypox, but long-term care employers are being urged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to follow its Infection Prevention and Control of Monkeypox in Healthcare Settings,” attorney Patrick Dennison, a partner at law firm Fisher Phillips, told the McKnight’s Business Daily.

“And while a comprehensive monkeypox-specific policy may be premature, the threat is serious enough that facilities should review their general infectious disease policy to ensure it is updated and ready to serve as a resource for any issues that might arise in the workplace,” he added.

According to the CDC, monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact. This includes direct contact with the monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox, as well as by touching clothing, bedding or towels handled by an infected person. Additionally, one can contract monkeybox through contact with respiratory secretions.

According to attorneys at Littler Mendelson, employers can help prevent the spread of monkeypox in the workplace by reviewing their safety programs and emergency action plans, reminding employees of hygiene practices and prevention measures, and advising employees on ways to reduce risk of exposure to the virus. 

“In cases of hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other facilities that may be treating individuals with monkeypox, it can be a work-related hazard that an employer can address by adding engineering controls, administrative controls, or personal protective equipment,” shareholder attorney Alka Ramchandani-Raj of Littler Mendelson, told the McKnight’s Business Daily.

“In situations where there is monkeypox at a long-term care facility, an employer may need to add extra safety protocols to caregivers treating or assisting these individuals.  Generally proper gowns, masks, and gloves should be sufficient in most situations because transmission, as identified by the CDC, requires direct contact,” she added.

Beyond the federal declaration of a public health emergency, California, Illinois and New York all have declared states of emergency over the monkeypox virus, and further local jurisdictions are likely to follow suit, Dennison said. 

In addition to making sure safety protocols are up to date, he suggested that employers also  review their anti-discrimination, harassment and retaliation policies, and monitor workplace interactions, “to get ahead of any stigma or misunderstandings surrounding transmission of the virus.”