Do Meeting Planners Need to Worry About Monkeypox?

Now that the Biden administration has declared monkeypox a public health emergency, do meeting planners need to worry?

Just the name monkeypox sounds ominous, suggesting that it’s a combination of an animal-to-human virus jumper like COVID and a deadly disease like smallpox, of which it is a less-lethal relative. But is this new public health threat something that meeting planners should be concerned about?

The good news is that the risk of catching monkeypox from casual contact—like at a meeting—is extremely low. In a recent World Health Organization study of more than 3,900 people infected with monkeypox, about 90 percent of respondents contracted the disease through a sexual encounter.

So although there are examples where monkeypox has spread through face-to-face interactions with someone or by touching a contaminated surface, this remains rare. “During this outbreak, there will probably be at least one random case where somebody gets it on a bus. But, you know, that’s going to be profoundly rare, probably less likely than being hit by that bus,” Dr. Susan McLellan from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, said during a recent interview with NPR.

The other good news is that the strain of monkeypox that’s being spotted outside its home base generally has a low fatality rate. As a DNA-based virus, it tends to be much slower to mutate than RNA-based viruses such as HIV and the virus that causes SARS, which makes it less likely to spawn new, more infectious and/or more deadly versions.

It also generally requires direct contact with lesions or respiratory droplets for transmission, unlike the COVID virus, which spreads through aerosol. And there are already several smallpox vaccines and drugs that can be used for monkeypox.
However, Amanda Schleede, CEO of Attend Safe, which offers COVID safety consulting and on-site management for meetings, told Prevue during a recent webinar that she is keeping her eyes on monkeypox. “Right now we don’t have access to vaccinations, so unless you have a special case, you’re not going to be able to get the vaccination. And so I think we need to keep our eyes on it and figure out what we’re going to be doing in regard to testing and managing that around meetings moving forward.”

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Barbara Scofidio is Editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In her 30 years in the industry, she has become known for her passion around greening meetings, growing awareness of human trafficking and promoting CSR activities as part of business events. She is currently a member of SITE's Women IN Leadership committee and the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee. She was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of SITE for 30 years, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. Before joining Prevue in 2014, she served as Editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives (MeetingsNet) for more than 20 years. She has a BA in Literature/Rhetoric from Binghamton University. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.

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