Van Buren-Cass health worker says ‘you need to be aware of monkey pox’

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With more monkeypox cases being reported across Michigan and across the country, the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department says it’s here to answer questions and educate residents who may not have -have never heard of the virus.

Administrator and Health Officer Danielle Persky released the following statement in an effort to raise awareness about the virus:

“Throughout the summer, a new topic of conversation emerged, raising many questions and some concerns. Cases of Monkeypox have been identified worldwide, in the United States and throughout Michigan; as of Wednesday, August 10, 2022, there were no known cases in Van Buren or Cass counties. While not a “novel” or new virus – monkeypox has instituted testing, vaccinations and treatments – this may be the first time many residents hear about it. Here’s what you need to know:

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. Monkeypox is in the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Symptoms of monkeypox are similar to those of smallpox, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.

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The monkeypox virus is mainly spread through close, intimate contact with someone who has monkeypox. People with monkeypox have a rash that can be located on or near the genitals or anus and can be found on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth. The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing and may initially look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy. Other symptoms may include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, muscle pain and back pain, headache, or respiratory symptoms (eg, sore throat, nasal congestion or cough). Sometimes people have flu-like symptoms before the rash, some people have a rash first followed by other symptoms, and others may only experience a rash. Symptoms usually begin within 3 weeks of exposure.

There are steps people can take to avoid getting monkeypox and reduce the risk of spreading it, such as avoiding close skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox, avoiding all contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used and washing hands often. The CDC recommends vaccination for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and those who are at higher risk of being exposed. If you think you have symptoms, tell your healthcare provider, even if you don’t think you’ve been in contact with someone with monkeypox.

As a local public health department, one of our roles is to investigate communicable diseases and monitor outbreaks helping to interrupt transmission. Another, is to provide access to vaccination. Our staff investigates all cases and works with individuals to educate and discuss prevention, treatment and vaccine options, and offer assistance in notifying those who may have been exposed.

Post-exposure vaccination is best given within the first 4 days of exposure, but can be given up to 14 days after exposure to reduce disease symptoms. With a limited supply of vaccines, certain eligibility criteria must be met for people exposed to monkeypox. Examples of eligibility criteria include people who have been exposed to monkeypox in the past 14 days (have had close physical contact with someone who has been clinically diagnosed), men who have sex with men, and who have a history of STIs within the past year, individuals and partners of people who engage in high-risk sexual activities, people who plan to have close contact at a high-risk event risk or from a high-risk setting, and people taking HIV PreP or those living with HIV.

People who meet the criteria are prioritized based on their availability. Most people don’t need a vaccine right now. As monkeypox evolves and vaccine supplies increase, information and advice may change. Currently, the vaccine is only available through local public health departments. If you think you are at risk, please call the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department at (269) 621-3143 and ask to speak to a public health nurse.

While the risk to the public remains low, I ask that you stay informed and aware of changing conditions, share the knowledge you now have with the people in your life, and be confident that as a service local public health department, we keep our finger on the pulse.

More resources and pictures of monkeypox rashes are available through the CDC, State of Michigan, and Van Buren/Cass District Health Department.

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