Q&A: Monkeypox is making headlines in the US. Here’s what you need to know

The CDC is monitoring an ongoing outbreak of monkeypox in the US.
The CDC is monitoring an ongoing outbreak of monkeypox in the US.
Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 3:50 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 9, 2022 at 1:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Health is investigating cases of monkeypox in Hawaii amid a nationwide outbreak, prompting questions about how the virus is transmitted ― and whether people are at risk.

Here’s a rundown of the health officials say:

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease that results in flu-like symptoms and skin lesions after prolonged closed contact with an exposed patient. It is a part of the orthopoxvirus family, which includes viruses such as smallpox and cowpox.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first human case of monkeypox was more than half a decade ago in Africa. It has since spread to other areas of the world, including the United States, through travel or by infected animals.

Despite the recent outbreak, Hawaii health officials said Friday that the risk to the general public remains low.

“Monkeypox does not spread easily from person to person,” said Dr. Sarah Kemble, Hawaii’s state epidemiologist.

What is the timeline of symptoms for monkeypox?

Joe Elm, the epidemiological specialist from the state Department of Health, said that the timeline for each case depends on the individual. In a virtual press conference with Kemble on Friday, Elm gave a rough outline of what to expect.

Beginning stages:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Fever

Later stages:

  • Rashes on hands, feet, chest, face or genitals
  • Lesions or sores

The illness can last from two to four weeks, according to the CDC.

If you develop rashes or lesions and are concerned you have monkeypox, Kemble recommends looking at pictures on the CDC website for a comparison.

How is monkeypox transmitted?

Unlike COVID-19, monkeypox does not travel more than a few feet, according to Kemble. She said that prolonged close contact is usually required. She also mentioned that saliva and open skin lesions could transfer the disease to others. She recommends healthcare workers and infected patients wear a face mask as a precaution.

Kemble said it’s rare for the disease to be transferred to humans after contact with the virus on surfaces, but there has been at least one case transmitted from bed linens.

Is there a monkeypox vaccine?

There is currently no cure for monkeypox. However, the smallpox vaccine eases symptoms.

Kemble said the DOH is currently working on shipping the vaccine to the islands.

What do I do if I get these symptoms?

Contact your health care provider and the Department of Health right away if you experience monkeypox symptoms.

How can monkeypox be prevented?

The CDC recommends:

  • Avoid contact with materials that have been touching someone or something with monkeypox
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Use personal protective equipment, such as face masks, when around patients
How many cases are there in the United States?

There are 24 confirmed cases in the U.S., according to the CDC.

California and New York currently have five confirmed cases, the highest case count in the country.

Why are we seeing monkeypox cases now?

Despite the recent spike, the CDC has been tracking monkeypox in the U.S. for almost two decades.

According to the CDC, a shipment of animals from Ghana to Texas in 2003 represented the first known exposure of the disease in the U.S.

The CDC said that the 2003 outbreak was caused by direct contact with infected pet prairie dogs, and not with person-to-person contact.

At the time, health officials worked together to prohibit the importation of African rodents into the U.S.

Since the recent outbreak in the U.S. is mostly through person-to-person contact, Kemble is urging residents to use caution and remain vigilant given cases on the mainland and the summer travel season.

For more information on the current cases of monkeypox in the U.S., click here.

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