Monkeypox a minor concern locally

With the country still feeling the impact of COVID-19, Monkeypox has risen as a new concern for many.

Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner says local residents should not be concerned about the disease turning into a pandemic on the scale of COVID, however.

According to Wagner, there have been a number of cases in surrounding areas, particularly St. Louis County and St. Clair County.

While Monroe County has currently not had a confirmed Monkeypox case, Wagner said it is largely just a matter of time until one eventually crops up.

“We know we are going to eventually, probably, have a case in Monroe County. There’s nothing special about Monroe County,” Wagner said. “It’s not widespread yet, but it is getting wider and wider as days and months go by.”

While it is by no means unique to just them, Wagner said Monkeypox cases have been predominantly found in the gay male population. He added cases are largely in the even more specific population of gay men with multiple partners.

Wagner explained that Monkeypox is not classified as a sexually transmitted disease. Though it is often transmitted through intimate contact, the primary means of transmission is simply close contact.

Given the disease is often transmitted through intimate contact, Wagner added it could pose a problem on college campuses which are being looked at closely by health agencies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the disease can be transmitted through direct contact with Monkeypox rash, scabs or bodily fluids from an infected individual; touching objects like clothing, bedding or towels that have been used by an infected individual and contact with respiratory secretions.

“The mode of transmission for Monkeypox is much different than the mode of transmission for COVID,” Wagner said. “It’s close personal contact.”

Given this significant difference between the two diseases, Wagner said individuals should not currently be concerned about another pandemic on the scale of COVID simply because a new, serious disease has appeared in recent months.

“To have the mass outbreak that we had with COVID and everything, even if the worst case scenario, we’re not gonna see it spreading at the rates that COVID did,” Wagner said.

The most prominent symptom of Monkeypox, according to the CDC, is a rash near the genitals or anus that can also be located elsewhere on the body. 

Symptoms also include fever, chills, muscle aches, exhaustion and respiratory symptoms.

Wagner advised that individuals – particularly gay men with multiple partners – should use caution and be aware of their partners’ health.

The CDC recommends individuals wash their hands often, avoid close contact with those who have a rash that looks like Monkeypox and avoid objects that potentially infected individuals have used, including utensils.

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Andrew Unverferth

HTC web