Preventing the spread of monkeypox as cases rise in Washington
Experts say knowing the symptoms and isolating potential cases is the best way to stop the spread.
SEATTLE — Experts say education is power when it comes to stopping the spread of the monkeypox virus. The more you know, the less likely you are to spread it.
“There are strategies in place that we can use to kind of limit the spread and those strategies have been effective in the past,” said Heather Koehler, assistant professor at Washington State University.
Koehler, who studied the West African monkeypox virus in a WSU lab, said members of the research community expected to see monkeypox cross into the United States. .
“It’s no surprise that with a population that’s unprotected, this is happening,” Koehler said.
Unlike previous generations, many people have not received the smallpox vaccine, which Koehler says can also help prevent monkeypox infections.
A limited number of monkeypox vaccines are distributed in Washington State to help stop the spread of the virus. The state has been allocated 796 doses of the two-dose JYNNEOS vaccine, which equates to 398 courses. Of those, 272 courses were distributed to areas with known cases and close contacts, according to the CDC. Public Health – Seattle & King County said it received 250 such courses.
Koehler believes this is part of a known strategy to help stop the spread of monkeypox. In 2003, the United States experienced an epidemic of monkeypox. The CDC has reported 47 known cases. A “variety of activities” prevented further spread.
“This included extensive laboratory testing; the deployment of vaccines and treatments for smallpox; the development of guidance for patients, healthcare providers, veterinarians and other animal handlers; the monitoring of animals potentially infected; and an investigation of possible human cases,” the CDC said on its website.
However, the current outbreak has more than 790 confirmed cases, including 14 in Washington state.
“I’ve been, you know, unsurprisingly, family, friends, everyone texts me. I would like to give everyone else the same reassurance that I give them, don’t be afraid, this will not be a new pandemic, in my opinion,” Koehler said.
Unlike COVID-19, there is more readily available information on monkeypox.
“We’re not starting from scratch. We know the symptoms. We know the transmission. We know the incubation period,” Koehler said. She said knowing the symptoms and isolating potential cases is the best way to stop the spread.
What is monkey pox? And how does it spread?
Monkeypox is a virus that comes from wild animals like rodents and primates, and sometimes jumps to humans. Most human cases have occurred in central and western Africa, where the disease is endemic.
The disease was first identified by scientists in 1958 when there were two outbreaks of a “pox-like” disease in research monkeys – hence the name monkeypox. The first known human infection dates back to 1970, in a 9-year-old boy in a remote region of Congo.
Monkeypox belongs to the same virus family as smallpox but causes milder symptoms.
Most patients suffer from fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. People with more severe illness may develop a rash and sores on the face and hands that may spread to other parts of the body.
The incubation period is about five days to three weeks. Most people recover in about two to four weeks without needing to be hospitalized.
Monkeypox can be fatal for up to 1 in 10 people and is thought to be more serious in children.
People exposed to the virus often receive one of several smallpox vaccines, which have been shown to be effective against monkeypox. Antiviral drugs are also being developed.