A new virus is spreading around Tampa Bay, bringing back memories of the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But monkeypox is very different from the coronavirus. Here’s what we know about the latest news around the world The World Health Organization recently declared a global emergency.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox, endemic to parts of central and western Africa, is a viral disease similar to smallpox but milder and usually lasting two to four weeks.
Since mid-May, the virus has been spreading all over the world, including Europe and the United States.
Monkeypox is zoonotic, which means it can be transmitted from infected animals to humans. It can also be passed from person to person through a rash or scabs on an infected person when kissing, having sex, or skin-to-skin contact.
Ulcers in the mouth can be contagious, which means the virus can also spread through respiratory droplets, according to the World Health Organization.
During the current global outbreak, scientists believe the virus is primarily transmitted through sexual activity, although it is still unknown whether it can spread through semen or vaginal fluids.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and a pimple-like or pimple-like rash on the face, inside the mouth, or on the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.
Sometimes patients will only have one genital ulcer, which means monkeypox can be confused with herpes or syphilis.
How many cases are in Tampa Bay?
Pinellas County has recorded 16 cases, according to current state data as of Thursday. Eight cases have been diagnosed in Hillsborough County. Cases in Hillsboro have doubled since early last week. No injuries have been reported in Pasco County.
Florida has identified 374 cases, about 75% of those in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
The United States has reported more than 4,900 cases.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can get monkeypox, but the vast majority of cases have been reported during the current outbreak among men who have had sex with men, health officials say.
Earlier this year, a senior adviser to the World Health Organization told the Associated Press that the global spread may be caused by sexual transmission at parties in Spain and Belgium.
Viruses don’t discriminate,” said Luke Johnsen, medical director of Metro Inclusive Health, an LGBTQ-focused health and wellness center in the Tampa Bay area. “It just so happened that the spread in Europe (occurred) within a particular community.”
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Jonathan Tolentino, a physician and professor at the University of Miami, emphasized that monkeypox “is not a homosexual ‘unquoted’ disease. This is not a disease specific to the LGBTQ community.”
“Did it impact our community first? Yes,” he said during a recent online discussion hosted by Equality Florida, an LGBT rights advocacy group, “but that doesn’t mean it won’t affect other communities.”
Is monkeypox as dangerous as COVID-19?
The virus is rarely fatal, but the symptoms can be very painful and may cause scarring. Approximately 10% of more than 18,000 cases worldwide have resulted in hospitalization for pain management.
No deaths have been reported in the United States during the current outbreak. Those with weakened immune systems or skin conditions such as eczema, young children, pregnant women and nursing mothers may be at greater risk of serious illness or death.
What should you do if you have symptoms?
If someone develops symptoms or thinks they have been exposed to monkeypox in Hillsborough or Pinellas, they should contact their doctor, according to local health officials.
Those who do not have a doctor in Hillsborough can contact the University District Clinic for STIs in Tampa.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said that people who do not have health insurance in Pinellas can contact St. Pete Free Clinic or Federally Qualified Health Centers operated by Evara Health.
How long do patients have to isolate?
Monkeypox patients should be isolated at home until the rash clears up and a new layer of skin forms, which can take up to a month.
Health officials say that if close contacts do not show symptoms, they do not need to be quarantined.
Monkeypox tests require a sample of the lesion. People exposed to the virus who do not have a rash cannot be tested.
What vaccines are available?
The US Food and Drug Administration has licensed two vaccines that can be used against the virus: ACAM2000 and Jynneos (also known as Imvamune or Imvanex). ACAM2000 is not widely distributed and can have serious side effects.
The federal government sends Jynneos to the states. The vaccine, which contains a two-dose regimen, is available free of charge to adults. It can be taken before or after exposure to monkeypox.
Supply from Jynneos is limited nationwide. Florida has received more than 36,000 doses from the federal government.
Johnson said Metro Inclusive Health received 100 doses from the state last week.
Who is eligible for a vaccine?
These groups are currently eligible: close contact with infected individuals; Laboratory and healthcare workers at risk of exposure; People who have had multiple sexual partners in the past two weeks in an area with cases of monkeypox; Immunocompromised men who have sex with HIV-positive men who could have been exposed to the virus (those with CD4 white blood cells less than 200 per ml); And men who have sex with men who are HIV-positive or have a history of sexually transmitted diseases who may be susceptible to the virus.
If you want a vaccine, talk to your doctor or call a local health department, Tolentino said.
Is monkeypox endemic in the United States?
It is still unknown. The answer hinges on the public health response, which has been criticized for being too slow.
“The disease may be endemic for an extended period of time,” said James Lawler, co-director of the Global Center for Health Security at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The most realistic scenario is that it takes a year to get this epidemic under control in the United States.