Health Officials: Monkeypox declared national emergency, spread primarily through intimate contact

Published 4:30 am Monday, July 25, 2022

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For the second time in two years, the World Health Organization [WHO] has declared a national public health emergency, this time due to Monkeypox.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the escalating global Monkeypox outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) this past weekend after over 16,000 cases of Monkeypox were reported to WHO from 47 countries.

“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly, through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little, and which meets the criteria in the International Health Regulations,” Ghebreyesus said in a statement on WHO’s website Saturday.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 2,891 confirmed cases of Monkeypox in the United States as of Monday, 211 of which were in Georgia.

There are currently 16,836 cases throughout the world. The CDC’s information does not specifically name where the cases in Georgia or any affected states are.

Area medical experts, such as Emory’s Dr. Kenneth Horlander, are monitoring the epidemic locally. Horlander said there is currently no evidence of cases in or near Troup County.

He recommended residents take basic hygienic precautions but otherwise are not in immediate danger of catching the virus.

“It is very unlikely that someone who is not coming into contact with a person with known Monkeypox will contract the illness,” Horlander said. “Persons who are being intimate or working in close contact with each other or others’ clothing should take basic safety precautions.”

WHO’s assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions, except in the European region where the organization assesses the risk as high.

“There is also a clear risk of further international spread, although the risk of interference with international traffic remains low for the moment,” Ghebreyesus said.

“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly, through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little, and which meets the criteria in the International Health Regulations.”

According to the CDC, the initial symptoms of Monkeypox include fever, malaise, headache, weakness and swollen lymph nodes in areas like the neck and armpits.

The tell-all sign of the virus is the raised, rash-like bumps on the infected person’s body.

The illness typically lasts two weeks to a month. Despite its appearance, Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.

“It can take 21 days to start having symptoms,” Horlander clarified. “This is a very dangerous virus, and there are even people who need to be hospitalized, often because of severe pain from the skin and mucosal lesions.

Monkeypox is primarily spread through close, physical contact with an infected person.

Sexual contact, especially between men, has been the main cause of the recent spread, according to the CDC.

“It has really started spreading rapidly,” Horlander said. “One recommendation is to avoid intimate contact until [those experiencing symptoms] are sure they haven’t been sexual with someone else for the preceding 21 days.”

The contact isn’t just sexual, Horlander said. Monkeypox can be spread through just touching clothing or linens used by someone who has the virus, or by cuddling, massaging or kissing. 

Another consideration is the spread of animals. Horlander recommends immediately cleaning scratches from animals.

Health officials have also recommended taking the following steps in public:

  • Don’t try clothes on at the store and wash them before wearing them.
  • Bring your own towel to the pool.
  • Wipe down gym equipment before and after using it.
  • Disinfect objects that an infected person has come in contact with.

According to the CDC, there are two vaccines licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are available for preventing monkeypox infection – JYNNEOS (also known as Imvamune or Imvanex) and ACAM2000.

In the United States, there is currently a limited supply of JYNNEOS, although more is expected in coming weeks and months, However, there is an ample supply of ACAM 2000. There is no data available yet on the effectiveness of these vaccines in the current outbreak.

Morgan Redding with the Troup County Department of Public Health said Monday the health department was meeting with health officials to discuss bringing the vaccines for Monkeypox to the area.

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