What is monkeypox? How do you get? Who’s at risk?
The viral disease has infected over 9,000 people in the United States, many cases coming after the World Health Organization declared it a public health emergency in July.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 55 cases in Tennessee, including at least one in Knox County.
To help dispel misinformation, Knox News spoke with Dr. Eric Penniman of Summit Medical Group at Middlebrook to get answers straight from a family medicine physician.
How concerned should people be about monkeypox?
Dr. Eric Penniman: It’s mostly spread through close and intimate contact with somebody who has it. So, it’s not like COVID, which is spread through respiratory secretions and right now spreading very, very rapidly.
From USA TODAY:Biden administration declares monkeypox a public health emergency
Read this:As monkeypox spreads, vaccine is available in Knox County. Here’s who needs it most.
(Monkeypox) does not spread rapidly because you have to have very close intimate contact, typically. But (there’s over 9,000) cases now in the US, so it’s something that people should be aware of, particularly people who are high risk.
How is monkeypox spread?
It’s spread mostly through skin-to-skin contact, specifically the fluid of one of the pustular lesions that gets on someone else’s skin or spread through respiratory secretions. So, direct kissing, sharing saliva, things like that. Now somebody coughs on you and you’re in close proximity, there’s a chance that you could get infected as well.
Who is at risk for monkeypox?
The high-risk group are men who have sex or intimate relations with men, and that’s mostly what we’re seeing. We’ve seen a few cases (between family members). Family members in close contact with somebody who is infected should take caution, for sure. But so far, it’s mostly a sexually transmitted disease.
Although, there is a possibility that it could be spread through direct contact with the respiratory secretions of somebody infected.
Are people of all sexual orientations at risk?
If you’re a human being you’re slightly at risk, certainly. The high-risk people are the ones that we’re most focused on, communicating to and beginning to vaccinate those in the high-risk category because the whole point of declaring a public health emergency is so that we can increase the communication and get those people vaccinated who are in high-risk groups so that hopefully we can stop spread altogether.
Who’s most vulnerable?
It would be laboratory workers who are working with samples, testing for monkeypox, as well as men who have sex or intimate relations with men.
Who should get vaccinated and where can they receive the vaccines?
Right now, I think the only place to get the vaccine is through (the Knox County Health Department). They do have some monkeypox vaccines but in very small quantities. The government has committed to helping to ramp up the production so that we can get high-risk people vaccinated, which should hopefully prevent somebody from getting it. And it’s even effective after someone has been exposed, specifically if it’s within four days of being exposed to monkeypox, getting vaccinated may help that person avoid it altogether.
How long does it take for monkeypox symptoms to appear after being exposed?
The incubation period is 3 to 17 days.
Are there any preventive measures people can take?
Isolation of those infected is very, very important and we’re early enough in this outbreak to halt it.
(Someone with monkeypox is) no longer contagious once their skin lesions have healed and new skin has grown over. At that point, they’re no longer contagious. So, if there’s (over 9,000) cases in the United States, if those (9,000) plus Americans will stay isolated, then we should stop this spread of monkeypox throughout the United States.
Fact check:Monkeypox is not a side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine, experts say
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What’s the main thing we should know about monkeypox?
The bottom line is that it’s largely preventable with vaccines as well as responsible people who are infected isolating. And there are some treatments for monkeypox if somebody were to get infected. It’s definitely not anything to be embarrassed about and not seek medical care.
If you think you have been in contact with somebody (infected), get a hold of your physician or your local health department right away so that appropriate measures can be taken.
End of Q&A with Dr. Penniman, which has been edited for clarity and length.
What are the Monkeypox symptoms and signs?
Monkeypox is a viral disease that typically starts with flu-like symptoms like fever, swollen glands, muscle aches and headaches, and then a rash usually develops a few days later.
However, with the 2022 worldwide outbreak, the rash tends to be the first symptom. Lesions are first appearing in the mouth anus, and genital areas.
The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.
Though the 2022 outbreak has been linked to sexual and intimate contact between men who have sex with men, the CDC does not classify monkeypox as a sexually transmitted disease and some experts say it could be problematic to frame it as such or reporting it as an illness that is only affecting men who have sex with men.
“Many people (may) think, ‘Well, I’m not having sex. I’m not a gay man. So, I’m good no matter what.’ When in reality, monkeypox is a contact-based disease,” Dr. Stella Safo, an HIV primary care physician and founder of Just Equity For Health recently told USA TODAY.
Where to get a monkeypox vaccine in Knox County?
Vaccines for monkeypox are available at the Knox County Health Department but supply is limited and those who are high-risk should look get vaccinated.
Call the health department at 865-215-5000 for more information about monkeypox vaccine access and monkeypox information.