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Local Health Department Addresses Monkeypox Concerns: Not Yet Seen In Missouri But In U.S.

Microscopic, colorized image of 'monkeypox'
Microscopic, colorized image of 'monkeypox'

Monkeypox, a rare virus, became a topic of discussion again with the World Health Organization—mainly because it was showing up in clusters across the world where it was not seen before. Those countries included the U.S., Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K.

Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958, and most cases to date have occurred in countries other than the U.S.—primarily in central and western Africa.

It is still rare in the U.S. though. As of May 25th, 2022, only eight probable cases had been reported, with one confirmed—and none were in Missouri. So far, the CDC has evidence of cases in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

In a recent press release, the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center shared information from the CDC, explaining that it's not clear how people in the current clusters were exposed to monkeypox, but data suggests that "prolonged close contact with an infected individual is a significant risk factor for the disease". According to the local health center, the risk among residents of Cape Girardeau at this time is low.

Unlike COVID-19—a current pandemic virus—the monkeypox virus does not spread easily between people. Transmission can occur through contact with bodily fluids, monkeypox sores, items that have been contaminated with fluids or sore, or through large respiratory droplets (which cannot travel more than a few feet) following prolonged face-to-face contact.

Autumn Grim, Epidemiologist and Director of the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center, discussed the disease and what to be aware of when traveling.

"I think the big thing is, watching for the signs and symptoms, you know, be aware of which countries are actually seeing cases", and emphasized the CDC's guidance.

She explained, "you may have like a flu-like illness...you just don't feel good. [You'll experience] fatigue and you'll typically develop a fever. And then, within one to three days after the fever, you'll start to see a rash, and that usually starts on the face and then moves to the extremities".

Grim emphasized, "the rash is very characteristic", or unique, and again encouraged visiting the CDC's website for photos of the disease.

When asked about preventing the infection of monkeypox, she said the precautions are fairly simple. "Just like every other illness, you know, good hygiene, just being aware of these individuals—[if they] look like they don't feel well, then [sic] keeping your distance. Just classic prevention measures".

In the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Center's Communicable Disease report from April 2022, COVID-19 was still the most prevalent among infections listed— with 204 reported cases. It was followed by 71 flu cases, 51 cases of chlamydia, and 11 gonorrhea total infections for the month.

The Cape Girardeau County Health Center will continue to provide updates as the situation develops if risk assessments determine an increased need in Cape Girardeau County.

National updates about monkeypox can be found on the CDC's website.

John is a proud 2006 Alum of Southeast Missouri State University, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication – Radio option, with a minor in Management. He has been a life-long listener of KRCU Public Radio, but began his radio career as a student DJ on Rage 103.7 KDMC-LP in 2003.