The St. Francois County Health Center has confirmed the first case of monkeypox in St. Francois County.
Currently, SFCHC Communicable Disease and COVID-19 Nurse Tara West is investigating the case.
As of Wednesday at 1 p.m., there are currently 18 cases in Missouri, while the United States has more than 10,392 cases of confirmed monkeypox cases.
Linda Ragsdale, director of the SFCHC, reminds people the overall risk to the general public remains low as the virus does not spread as easily as other viruses can, including the one causing COVID-19.
The monkeypox virus is most often spread through direct contact with the rash or sores of a person who has the virus, but can also spread through contact with clothing, bedding, other items used by a person with monkeypox, or from respiratory droplets passed through prolonged face-to-face contact. Transmission can also occur during sexual activity and other forms of intimate activities.
Symptoms typically start within three weeks of exposure, and one is contagious from the start of symptoms until the rash has healed. Common symptoms include those resembling the flu with a fever, headache, muscle aches, backaches, sore throat, cough, swollen lymph nodes, chills, or exhaustion.
Most people with the virus will develop a rash either before the flu-like symptoms start or one to four days after the flu-like symptoms begin. According to the Ragsdale, the rash will go through several stages before healing. The rash may scab, and can often resemble acne or blisters and may be painful or itchy. Lastly, the rash may also be inside the body, including in the mouth or genital area.
If someone has a new or unexplained rash, or other symptoms of the virus, the SFCHC recommends not being intimate with anyone until being checked by a health care provider, and to wear a mask when seeing a provider. While it is recommended to see a health care provider for testing, if someone is unable to see a health care provider, a local public health agency is also approved.
In order to protect oneself, avoid close and skin-to-skin contact of someone who has a rash resembling monkeypox, as well as do not touch the rash or scabs of someone with the virus. The health center also recommends to not kiss, hug, cuddle, be intimate, or share eating utensils or cups of someone with the virus. It is also not recommended to handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of someone with the virus.
It is recommended to wash hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
For men who have sex with men, certain activities can introduce a high risk for exposure including being intimate with multiple or anonymous people, and attending clubs, raves, saunas, and other places with skin-to-skin or face-to-face contact with many people and the possibility of less clothing.
It is important to remember the virus is not considered a sexually-transmitted disease.
Currently, vaccine ability is limited and those who are a higher risk of exposure are being prioritized. As of now, only post-exposure prophylaxis is being recommended. According to the CDC, there are two vaccines which can be used for the prevention of the monkeypox disease. There is Jyneeos, which is used for the prevention of smallpox and monkeypox disease among people determined to be at a high risk for infection; and ACAM2000 which is approved for immunization against smallpox disease for people to be determined at a high risk for infection, and has recently been made available for use against monkeypox in the current outbreak.
People at higher risk include people who have been identified by public health officials as a contact of someone with confirmed monkeypox, or someone who may have been exposed to the virus such as those who are aware of a partner in the last two weeks has been diagnosed or those with multiple partners in the last two weeks in an area with known monkeypox.
Due to the current guidance from the CDC and the amount of vaccines Missouri received, pre-exposure prophylaxis is not currently available.
Danielle Thurman is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be contacted at email@example.com or 573-518-3616.