SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Monkeypox can effect anyone, said Dr. Charles Chima, the public health director for the city of Sioux Falls.
Although South Dakota has one confirmed monkeypox case, the outbreak in the U.S. is increasing. And while anyone can catch it, Chima said the public should not react in fear.
Chima said cases have increased from about 21 just two months ago to about 6,600 as of August 4. The Biden Administration declared monkeypox a public health emergency on August 4.
Although the diagnosed cases so far have been primarily in gay or bisexual men, Chima and Dr. Susan Hoover, an infectious disease doctor at Sanford Health, said anyone can get monkeypox.
Chima and Hoover said the public needs to take a common sense approach to monkeypox.
“We should be cautious but not afraid,” Chima said.
Monkeypox symptoms are similar to the flu and rashes will often appear in 1 to 4 days after contraction.
Monkeypox is spread through close human-to-human contact. According to the Centers for Disease Control, monkeypox can be spread by direct contact with the monkeypox rash, scabs or body fluids from a person with monkeypox along with touching objects, fabrics such as clothing, bedding or towels or surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
If a person has flu-like symptoms and a rash, they should contact their medical provider. Even if it’s just flu-like symptoms, they can contact their medical provider, Chima said.
If a person believes they’ve been exposed to monkeypox, they should contact their medical provider.
Chima said monkeypox is a reportable illness and the sooner it gets reported by a medical provider, the quicker local, state and national public health can respond to the virus.
People who are sick also need to stay home, Chima said.
Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease but it is spread through close human-to-human contact, Chima said. “Body-to-body contact…naturally happens during sex,” Chima said.
Chima and other health officials said having multiple sexual partners or anonymous sex can put someone at higher risk for monkeypox because you may not be able to determine if that person(s) has the virus.
Part of the discussion around monkeypox is the high number of cases confirmed in gay or bisexual men, according to information from the CDC and World Health Organization.
Since monkeypox was detected in the U.S., it has sparked discussion about the public health and public response to AIDs/HIV in the1980s when the illness was widely considered a gay virus,
Although multiple cases have been confirmed in gay or bisexual men, it would be wrong to consider or stigmatize monkeypox as a gay virus, said Chima and Hoover said.
“A virus does not discern based on sexual orientation,” Hoover said.
It would be a mistake to believe that monkeypox effects only the gay population, Chima said. “We don’t want to make the mistake of stigmatizing any population.”
“We don’t want to stigmatize at any time,” Hoover said. Health officials are working to raise awareness in the LGBTQ community about the potential risks, she said.
At least two children in the U.S. contracted monkeypox as of late July.
Chima said travel is a factor in the spread of monkeypox but just as with daily life, common sense applies. A person likely has more risk of COVID-19 sitting on an airplane or at an indoor concert or show, Chima said.
But people shouldn’t travel if they have symptoms of monkeypox or if they know someone they will be with in close contact at their destination has symptoms, Chima said.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the public may want to avoid raves or crowded gatherings where there may be potential close, prolonged body-to-body contact where clothing is minimal.
Here is other CDC advice about avoiding monkeypox:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox.
- Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.
- Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox.
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox
The federal declaration of a public health emergency could result in more money for new treatments and flexibility in response to the outbreak.
The increase in monkeypox cases has resulted in a vaccine shortage in some areas.
The state has the vaccine available and any available vaccination, testing and similar will be adjusted as needed, Chima said.
Right now, there is no call for the general public to be vaccinated, Chima said.