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The Covid-19 pandemic proved fatal for more than 6m people, devastated economies and left untold numbers suffering with Long Covid. The last thing the world needed or expected was the emergence of another globally mobile virus.

Monkeypox is a virus previously limited to remote areas of Central and West Africa that has started spreading, slowly, to other countries.

However, this is not a reason to panic, this is not Covid Mark II

The disease, which was first identified in monkeys, contracted from small mammals including rodents, does not spread easily between humans, although it can be transmitted through various forms of close contact. 

Most recent figures (20th June 2022) show that there are:

  • 452 reported cases in England
  • 12 in Scotland
  • 4 in Wales
  • 2 in Northern Ireland

What is Monkeypox?

It is a relatively rare infection which is not normally found outside Africa. Humans can catch it from infected mammals such as mice, squirrels and rats, through bites or coming into contact with their blood, other bodily fluids, blisters or scabs.

It’s called Monkeypox because it was first identified in laboratory monkeys in 1958.

It is a viral disease from the same family as smallpox, although the symptoms of Monkeypox are much less severe. 

There are two forms of the virus, the stronger central African strain and the milder west African one, which appears to be the strain which has spread to Europe and the USA.

Early symptoms include fever, headaches, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and fatigue. It isn’t pleasant, and authorities around the world agree on the importance of limiting its spread to prevent a low-level pandemic.

Is Monkeypox dangerous?

Most people recover from Monkeypox within a few weeks so its is not considered to be a dangerous virus, although the effects can be felt more seriously by vulnerable people such as pregnant women or anyone with a compromised immune system. 

Vaccines used to combat smallpox, which was itself eradicated in 1980, have proven to be effective in stopping the spread.

Monkeypox in the UK

To date (20th June 2022) there were 470 confirmed cases of Monkeypox in the UK. 

That may seem a low figure but at the beginning of May there were none. The first was identified on 5th May, which illustrates the speed with which it has grown but nowhere near as fast and virulent as the first outbreak of Covid-19.. 

Within the first three weeks of identifying the outbreak, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) issued guidance for those who have contracted the virus or have been in direct contact with a confirmed case. 

Such people are advised to isolate themselves for 21 days, not to travel and to avoid anyone who is pregnant or has a weak/compromised  immune system as well as children under 12.

What does it all mean for inventory clerks?

As we’ve tried to emphasise, this is not a disease that is normally considered life-threatening like Covid-19 or influenza and therefore common sense and a realistic view of the issue needs to be applied to avoid over-emphasis of the situation and undue worry. 

Contracting Monkeypox although unpleasant is not thought to be fatal however the impact can be far reaching where it compromises your ability to engage in the normal routine of work and everyday life. 

According to the NHS, symptoms to monitor include:

  • a high temperature
  • a headache
  • muscle aches
  • backache
  • swollen glands
  • shivering (chills)
  • exhaustion

A rash usually appears 1 to 5 days after the first symptoms. The rash often begins on the face, then spreads to other parts of the body. This can include the genitals.

Monkeypox: What inventory clerks need to know

The rash is sometimes confused with chickenpox. It starts as raised spots, which turn into small blisters filled with fluid. These blisters eventually form scabs which later fall off.

The vast majority of people are at virtually no risk of contracting it, especially if the UKHSA guidance is followed.

Nevertheless, there are many professions which involve direct contact with other people

Aside from the obvious healthcare staff and operatives, tradespeople such as electricians, plumbers, cleaners and other trades that underpin the rental sector, and whose livelihood depends on entering the homes of others, are more likely to come into contact with the public through the course of their activities. 

That said, service providers can insist on limiting contact as often there is no need for the occupiers of the home to be present.

It’s a little different for inventory clerks, as the entire workspace is conducted in the home. 

Clearly, there is no way to limit yourself to one feature of a property or to specific rooms as the role of a clerk requires you  to carry out a detailed inspection of even the smallest corner of every room, and for this reason you need to understand the kind of simple precautions you can take to minimise even further the low risk of infection.

Sensible precautions to take 

The highest risk of contracting the virus is by having direct skin to skin contact with an infected person. 

While conducting a property inspection it is fairly easy to avoid this by limiting anyone being at the property or by maintaining a safe distance. 

However, there is an identified risk from touching clothing, bedding or towels used by someone with the Monkeypox rash. As most inventory and check out reports do not involve speaking directly to the tenant or landlord, clerks are advised to be cautious when checking the bed, mattress and any clothing present.

It isn’t yet clear whether surfaces such as tables and doors can present a threat, but in the interests of safety you may wish to assume they do.

The kind of full PPE we’ve seen used against Covid consists of an FFP3 respirator mask, a long-sleeved gown, eye protection and gloves is probably a little too extreme.

Lower-level PPE seems more appropriate and effective in guarding against Monkeypox.

Monkeypox: What inventory clerks need to know

Reducing the risks

The riskiest part of the inspection is clearly when you are in bedrooms, where bedding and clothing are present either as a furnished property items left behind at check out.

It is therefore advisable to:

  • use gloves when inspecting beds/bedding or turning over mattresses
  • continue to follow your protocols for hand sanitising
  • clean devices and equipment after each visit
  • wipe down surfaces that are / have been a touchpoint
  • limit contact with others whilst at the property

Inventory Base enables you to create templates to help manage the risks at the property including check lists to ensure that all areas are not only inspected but are done so safely.

Report settings allow you to add your disclaimers so that any limitations of your service are clearly shown or to highlight issues and recommendations.

Utilise the features to let your clients and other clerks you work with understand how the property report and visit will be conducted and precautions to take when navigating the property.

Use of PPE may feel extreme, but if the alternative is 21 days of isolation, or worse discomfort and enforced inactivity, not only will you feel wretched, but it will have a serious impact on your income and your ability to serve your clients. 

Use your common sense, conduct a dynamic risk assessment whilst at the property, follow your templates to improve efficiencies of service and, above all else, be safe.

Monkeypox: What inventory clerks need to know