Workplace Communications: Monkeypox Memo For Employers

It's been a few weeks since the news of the monkeypox outbreak first made headlines, and many employers are still trying to figure out how to talk about it with their staff. We know this can be a difficult and confusing time in the workplace, but it can also be an opportunity to reinforce trust, open up communication, and further connect with your valued employees.

If you'd like a printable version of this information, head on over to our "alerts" page for the full PDF.

Here are some tips for employers to handle workplace communication during a public health emergency. Stay safe!

Important & Accurate Information

One of the biggest responsibilities employers have during health emergencies is to stop the spread of misinformation. Fear, anxiety, and stress only make matters worse - but clear and accurate information empower us all. Here are some crucial facts about Monkeypox:

Situational Overview

  • Monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus, a family that includes smallpox. Symptoms include fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes and a painful rash of raised bumps that tends to be distributed on the face, extremities, and genitals.
  • Since early May 2022, cases of monkeypox have been reported in countries where the disease is not endemic and continue
    to be reported in several endemic countries. The origin of the current spread is still unclear and does not appear to be linked to countries where the virus has been historically endemic.
  • The strain of monkeypox spreading is estimated to have a low fatality rate (1-3%) and many infected people are reporting“relatively mild” symptoms, with as few as one lesion during infection.
  • Monkeypox vaccines exist and have been approved for use since 2019, however there is a shortage due to high demand from countries where the virus is not historically reported(Europe, North America, South America).

Monkeypox Transmission

  • Monkeypox mainly spreads through direct skin-to-skin contact, via exposure to infectious lesions as well as through soiled linens and contaminated surfaces.
  • While there is some discussion about monkeypox being sexually transmitted, transmission via bodily fluids has not yet been confirmed. Studies around this are ongoing.
  • Monkeypox does not linger in the air like COVID-19, however transmission via respiratory droplet particles can occur during prolonged face-to-face contact.
  • The incubation period ranges from 5-21 days and the illness typically lasts for 2-4 weeks. The infectious period lasts until all scabs or crusts have fallen off, though may extend longer for some.

Monkeypox in the United States

  • First Confirmed Case – Reported to CDC on May 17, 2022
  • Declared as Public Health Emergency – August 4, 2022
  • Current Confirmed Cases – 8,934 Reported to CDC as of August 8, 2022
  • Zero deaths reported (11 total deaths globally among 29,833 cases)

Note: These numbers are likely significantly underrepresenting the actual case count due
to limited access to testing, lag time in case confirmation, knowledge gaps among providers, and stigma that may make individuals reluctant to seek medical care.

Now that we've covered the data and educational information regarding monkeypox, employees need to know where to go from here. In order to keep your workplace safe and functioning at its highest capacity, your workforce needs clear guidance. Here are some helpful tips for how to handle your employee communication strategy during this time. 

Considerations for Employees

  • Set up a steering committee tasked with driving decisions and operationalizing plans should an outbreak(among your workforce or the broader community) occur.
  • Communicate with your employees about what you’re doing to stay in line with the evolving guidance and ensure they remain safe and protected from all infectious disease while at work.
  • If appropriate, develop and promote internal messaging to counteract misinformation and help destigmatize monkeypox. Coordinate with public health organizations, public health clinics as well as LGBTQIA+ organizations and providers in order to learn firsthand how transmission and messaging is evolving and how those organizations are handling the outbreak
  • Consider developing a handout for visitors/customers with information to help allay concerns that may be stoked via the news or social media. Post similar messaging on your public-facing website as well as via social media channels for those who may have concerns about entering your facility.
  • Develop contingency staffing plans to prevent any major disruption in operations. Should an outbreak occur in your workplace some employees would be unable to work for weeks.
  • Ensure your HR team has the latest information and is trained on how to speak with employees who may have questions or concerns. Additionally, HR teams should consider how benefits would cover long absences for employees, in the event of an outbreak.
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