ATLANTA, GA – May 15, 2023 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent out an alert on May 15th about a recent cluster of cases of mpox (formerly called monkeypox) in the Chicago area. The number of cases of mpox in the United States has declined since peaking last summer. However, there are still cases worldwide including in the U.S. From April 17 to May 5, 12 confirmed cases and one probable case of mpox were reported to the Chicago Department of Public Health. Every affected person was male. None were hospitalized. 9 of the 13 people (about 70%) had a full series of mpox vaccinations. The summer season may lead to more mpox outbreaks as people get-together for festivals and other events.
Mpox is a communicable disease that spread across the world last summer to areas that rarely had been affected. There has been more than 30 thousand people infected in the United States. The World Health Organization had declared the disease a global public health emergency. The virus is related to the virus that causes smallpox. However, the source of the disease is unknown. The virus can reside in African rodents and non-human primates and can infect people. The first human infection was identified in the 1970’s. Up until the recent 2022 outbreak, mpox has been endemic in central Africa (a more severe strain) and western Africa (a milder strain that is rarely fatal). Cases outside of Africa were related to human travel or through the export of animals. The recent worldwide outbreak, in countries that have not historically reported the disease, is from the milder West African strain.
Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms but milder. They can include: fever, headache, severe pain, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, and chills followed by a rash. The rash, from a few lesions to thousands, can appear like pimples or fluid-filled blisters before scabbing over. The illness can last from 2 to 4 weeks until the scabs fall off.
The disease can spread from contact with an infected person or infected animal. An infected person can spread it from the beginning of their symptoms until the rash has completely healed. The virus is primarily spread through direct skin-to-skin contact with the rash, scabs or bodily fluids. It can also spread by prolonged breathing of respiratory droplets or by having contact with items, like clothing or bedsheets, that has previously touched the rash or infected bodily fluids. Most of the monkeypox cases outside of Africa during the recent outbreak have been spread through contact among men who have had sex with men. However, women and children can develop monkeypox with direct contact with an infected person. The time from exposure to the first symptoms can range from 3 to 17 days.
People can prevent getting monkeypox by avoiding close, skin-to-skin contact with infected persons and by not touching items that have been contaminated by an infected individual. Standard detergents and household cleaners are effective at decontaminating bedsheets, clothing and surfaces. Frequent hand sanitation can also reduce the risk of transmission. Infected persons need to isolate at home away from others including pets. All skin rashes need to be covered. The outbreak had declined because of changes in sexual behavior, vaccination, and acquired immunity.
A person should get evaluated by a health care provider for a close contact to someone with monkeypox, for symptoms or physical signs even if previously vaccinated or infected with mpox. Tests can be performed by having a health care professional swab a skin lesion (a rash or sore). Samples must be sent to only those labs able to perform the analysis such as a public health lab and select commercial labs.
The vaccines are effective to reduce the risk for infection and transmission of the virus and in reducing the severity of disease and hospitalization. The CDC recommends that a person get the vaccine within 14 days of exposure. Vaccination within 4 days from exposure may prevent the onset of the disease; administration between day 4 and 14 after exposure may reduce the symptoms.
The vaccine is for people at a high risk for exposure to mpox. Those at-risk include gay, bisexual, transgender, and nonbinary people and men who have sex with men. At-risk people may qualify for the vaccine with:
- A suspected exposure in the previous 2 weeks,
- A sex partner with mpox in the past 2 weeks
- Multiple sex partners or anonymous sex in the past 6 months
- A diagnosis of a sexually transmitted infection in the past 6 months
The vaccine is also for people at a high risk of being exposed, for example, laboratory, healthcare and public health workers (who may handle specimens or are exposed to infected patients).
Last September, the Buncombe County Department of Health & Human Services (BC HHS) partnered with 103.3 AshevilleFM and The Getaway River Bar to have a mpox vaccination clinic at the bar’s Riverside Drive location in Asheville. This was one of the first public health services by the newly created BC HHS Mobile Team to bring vaccinations to underserved rural communities and populations. The mobile team was created with federal COVID-19 funds to purchase a mobile van and hire a team of nurses and emergency medical technicians.
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Contact: Dr. Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, firstname.lastname@example.org