Monkeypox infections remain low

Published 5:14 pm Thursday, September 1, 2022

In the fight against yet another global disease outbreak, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced last week it is expanding eligibility for JYNNEOS, the monkeypox vaccine, to align with the current vaccination criteria laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The expanded criteria for vaccination include Virginia residents who meet one of the following:

• People, of any sexual orientation or gender, who have had anonymous or multiple (more than one) sexual partners in the past two weeks; or

• Sex workers of any sexual orientation or gender; or

• Staff, of any sexual orientation or gender, at establishments where sexual activity occurs.

According to the VDH as of Aug. 23, VDH had received 15,282 vials of the JYNNEOS vaccine, redistributed 8,899 vials to the state’s 35 health districts and administered 5,875 vials through local health departments and other healthcare providers.

In the Central Region there have been 690 people vaccinated.

The Central Region encompasses the counties of Amelia, Cumberland, Buckingham, Prince Edward, Charlotte, Lunenburg, Nottoway; the metro area around Richmond (Richmond, Henrico, Hanover, New Kent, Goochland, Charles City, Chesterfield, Powhatan, Colonial Heights, Petersburg, Hopewell, Prince George, Dinwiddie); and down to the N.C. border (Emporia, Surry, Sussex, Greensville, Brunswick, Halifax, Mecklenburg).

A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS

On Tuesday, Aug. 30 the total number of monkeypox cases in Virginia stood at 325. Of those cases 33 are in the Central Region.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, males account for 312 cases, with four cases accounting for female.

“While the risk to the general public of monkeypox infection remains low, anyone can get and spread monkeypox, most often through close, personal, skin-to-skin contact.” said Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Maria Almond. “Thankfully this is a virus for which we already had an effective vaccine. This is not a novel virus although it is spreading in a unique way. Being able to reach those who are most at-risk, to provide information and vaccination, is our priority.” 

Dr. Almond said health departments are seeing improvements in this outbreak with noted declines in the numbers of cases reported globally, driven by the decrease in Europe even as cases rise in the Americas. 

“This is in large part due to those who are seeking care immediately for any possible symptoms and helping to notify their contacts; to providers who are testing and identifying cases early; and to a public health system that has worked to reach out to the communities where there is substantial spread to ensure that those most vulnerable and most at-risk have the tools they need to test, treat if necessary and obtain vaccine.” Dr. Almond said.

Monkeypox is a contagious rash illness caused by the monkeypox virus. In most cases it resolves without treatment. It is spread by close contact with an infected person. Close contact includes touching skin lesions, bodily fluids, or clothing or linens that have been in contact with an infected person. Spread can also occur during prolonged, face-to-face contact.

While anyone can catch monkeypox if they have close contact with someone with monekypox, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, many of those affected in the current global outbreak are gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men. While this level of monkeypox activity is unexpected, the risk to the general population is low. People with monkeypox in the current outbreak generally report having close, sustained contact with other people who have monkeypox.

The highest risk activity currently is having sex with multiple or anonymous partners; avoiding these activities greatly reduces one’s risk of catching or spreading monkeypox. Monkeypox does not spread from person to person from walking past someone who is infected or through casual conversation with someone who is infected.

Initial symptoms of the disease often include flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes, followed by skin lesions. However, some people have a rash without other symptoms. Although the majority of cases don’t require hospitalization, it is contagious and can be painful. If you have a rash that resembles monkeypox, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to get tested. Treatment is available for those at risk of severe illness.