BEAUFORT, S.C. (WSAV) – There’s a lot of talk right now about the monkeypox virus. But what is this latest virus and should you be worried?
There are now nine monkeypox cases in seven states — the closest one to us is in Florida.
Monkeypox was first discovered in the animals in 1950s in West and Central Africa and spread to humans in the 1960s. It hadn’t been a concern in the United States until now.
“It appears to be body fluid and droplet transmission, so this is not an aerosol like COVID,” explained Dr. Kurt Gambla, chief medical officer at Beaufort Memorial Hospital.
That is the good news, Gambla said.
The monkeypox virus transmits through close skin-to-skin contact, according to Gambla.
“Which would then include body fluid transmission from a pustule that could be draining,” he added.
“Blood and body fluid transmission,” Gambla continued. “Anybody that has lesions, open lesions, draining blisters, things like that, you want to be cautious about exposure to them or anything that body fluids may touch.”
If you have been traveling overseas, Gambla said you should watch your health and possible symptoms as well.
“Fever, fatigue, body ache, headache, swollen lymph nodes and the rash that comes,” he said. “Anybody who has that constellation of symptoms, it’s worth going and get it checked out, but it can be a lot of things.”
The cases are limited in the United States but still have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other national officials closely watching.
“The U.S. has the resources we need to help us respond to monkeypox in this country right now. We’ve been preparing for this type of outbreak for decades,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a briefing.
Walensky mentioned two vaccines that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for smallpox and stored in the National Strategic Stockpile.
The U.S. has 100 million doses of one vaccine called ACAM2000. The second, called Jynneos, is FDA-approved for use against monkeypox in particular, and some doses of it have already been distributed.
The cases are so far all among men who have sex with men, though Walensky emphasized that “the risk of exposure is not limited to any one particular group.”
The cases in the United States have all been people who traveled out of the country.
The CDC believes outbreaks can be controlled with the use of smallpox vaccines and antiviral treatments.
Gambla says while the virus is worth watching, he doesn’t believe it will be a major issue in our area.
“The limited transmissibility of this and the limited virulence, which is between 1 and 105 mortality rate, which is quite low,” he said. “Most of the cases are quite mild and run their course without treatment. So I don’t think there is a need for concern.”