You may have heard or seen reports in the news about a virus called Monkeypox that is circulating in the U.S. and in Washington State. Right now, we do not have any confirmed cases of Monkeypox (MPV) in Whatcom County, but we may see our first case of this virus in the near future. It is important to know that Monkeypox is very different from COVID-19. Our response will be different and specific to MPV. We want to share information with you on how to stay safe from Monkeypox and what the Health Department is doing to prepare.
What is Monkeypox Virus?
Monkeypox virus (MPV) naturally infects small mammals in West and Central Africa. In humans, monkeypox will usually cause one or more painful sores or blisters. It also causes fever and swollen lymph nodes in about 50% of cases. Lymph nodes are bean-shaped glands in the neck, armpits, and other parts of the body. Illness usually lasts 2-4 weeks. Sometimes people become sick enough to be hospitalized.
How does Monkeypox Virus spread in humans?
MPV is currently spreading between people primarily through direct skin-to-skin contact with the infectious sores or body fluids. MPV may be transmitted by respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact, kissing, or sex. Respiratory transmission through brief casual interactions is very unlikely. MPV may also be spread by material contaminated by MPV sores, like bedding or clothing. Current evidence suggests that someone must have symptoms in order to spread the disease to others.
- Contact your doctor about getting tested if you develop an unusual and painful sore, especially in the anal or genital region. If you do not have a healthcare provider, contact the Health Department to discuss your situation with a public health nurse - 360-778-6100 or [email protected]
As of today, Aug 1, there have been approximately 5,189 confirmed cases in the US, and 120 cases in Washington State, according to the CDC.
Who is at risk and how can I stay safe?
Anyone can get monkeypox, but some people are at a higher risk. Unlike the virus that causes COVID-19, monkeypox is primarily spread through close physical contact and does not spread through the air over longer distances. Brief interactions that do not involve physical contact are considered low risk.
Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection, but right now most Monkeypox cases in the U.S. are being spread through skin-to-skin contact during sex. It is important to remember that anyone who is sexually active with multiple partners or whose partner has sex with multiple partners is at higher risk.
Other risk factors may include travel to areas where monkeypox is spreading, close, non-sexual contact with an infected person, or contact with sick animals. To protect yourself and others from monkeypox, practice safer sex methods, and avoid physical contact with anyone who has open wounds, sores, or rashes.
How can we prevent the spread and what is the Health Department doing?
Controlling the outbreak is possible. To stop monkeypox, we must stop the person-to-person transmission, and we need to make sure we prevent transmission to pets and wildlife.
To bring monkeypox under control, we need to:
- Quickly identify anyone who has the virus or who may have been exposed through testing. The Health Department is communicating with providers and clinics to make sure doctors know what to look for, how to order tests, and how to report a positive case.
- Make sure people know they should avoid skin to skin and sexual contact while they have sores. Any partners or close contacts should also avoid skin to skin or sexual contact. We will continue to share information about MPV with the public and with healthcare providers, so you have the latest data available.
- Help those who test positive to isolate for as long as they have any rashes and provide them with medication if needed. Our public health nurses are ready to reach out and give advice to anyone who tests positive or who may have been exposed.
- Vaccinate people who may have been exposed. It is important for anyone who was exposed to get vaccinated as soon as possible. This can keep you from getting sick or, if you do get sick, your illness will be mild. We will soon receive a limited supply of Monkeypox vaccine to distribute if and when it is needed.
Where can I get more information?
- Washington State Department of Health Monkeypox (MPV) information webpage has information on what to do if you have symptoms, if you test positive, treatments, vaccines, information on the current total number of cases in the state and cases by county, and more: https://bit.ly/3Bs9ldb
- CDC Monkeypox webpage includes information on the national vaccine strategy, the current outbreak across the country, sexual health, how the virus spreads, and more: https://bit.ly/3OSV8cE