SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — U.S. health officials declared monkeypox a public health emergency Thursday as the number of cases continues to mount. The virus has already infected more than 6,000 Americans. 

Declaring monkeypox a public health emergency will free up federal funding and resources to fight the virus. It should also help make the vaccine available to more people. 

There are now more than 500 cases of monkeypox in Georgia and while it hasn’t yet reached the Coastal Empire, local health leaders say it’s likely only a matter of time.

This week vaccine availability expanded in our area.

Already available in Chatham County, the monkeypox vaccine program expands to Glynn County starting Friday, and consists of two doses four weeks apart.

To get it, you have to be at least 18, a gay or bisexual man who has sex with other men, have a sexual partner who was diagnosed with monkeypox in the past 14 days or have multiple partners in that time in an area with reported cases and not showing symptoms yourself.

“If somebody is exposed to a case of monkeypox, they would get what we call post-exposure prophylaxis with the vaccine and ideally that would be given within four days of exposure,” said Dr. Lawton Davis/Health Director at the Coastal Health District.

Davis said monkeypox can be in your system for one to two weeks, sometimes three, before you develop symptoms.

“Typically, muscle aches, pains, fever, feeling flu-like, rotten and then you develop the characteristic rash,” Davis said.

The infection can last from two to four weeks. during that time, it can pass to others through contact with the fluid from the rash, either skin to skin or on objects like bed sheets, clothing or towels.

But Davis says most people fully recover.

“One of the few good things about it I guess is that you typically develop a very strong immune response.”

Davis reminded people that monkeypox is not an STI and while it currently seems to be spreading among gay and bisexual men, “anyone can get it.”