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Health department: Monkeypox risk to public 'very low'

Europe Monkeypox
Posted at 5:00 PM, Jun 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-10 18:00:18-04

WACO, Texas — The first case of monkeypox was discovered in Texas on Tuesday. The CDC describes monkeypox as a milder case of smallpox.

The illness is not new but is now making headlines as it makes its way out of the African countries it's typically found.

"Until may of 2022, whenever we've seen cases of monkeypox they have always been travel-associated. A person has traveled to an African country and got it, so we had that connection," Vaidehi Shah with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District

The concern started when the UK reported new cases in people who had not traveled. There are now more than 1,300 cases in 31 countries including the US.

Medical experts said there's no need to panic as the disease is not as easily spread as COVID-19.

"It's nowhere near as contagious as the SARS Coronavirus which is airborne and really spread through the air and respiratory droplets," Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. David Dijohn said. "This is not spread that way."

There are a few main ways it can be spread to people, including direct contact with an infected animal or person. This means skin actually touching sores, rashes, or bodily fluids or a material such as clothing that has touched it. It can also be spread from a pregnant mother to her baby.

"It can also be spread by respiratory reasons, but that's really long prolonged face-to-face contact," Shah added. "Generally that happens where there's intimate contact between people like during sex or activities like cuddling or kissing."

Symptoms can include a fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and an unexplainable rash. If you think you might have monkeypox, you're encouraged to visit a doctor as soon as possible.

"Before you could go to see a healthcare provider, let them know on the phone that you have a rash so they can be prepared," Shah said.

Monkeypox is treatable and there are already vaccines available.