Delaware marked three more monkeypox cases on Thursday, as the federal government declared a public health emergency to respond to the monkeypox outbreak in the United States.
Delaware now has six current monkeypox cases, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data updated on Aug. 5.
So, what does this mean for the First State and its response to this virus? For one, Delaware does not yet plan to declare a public health emergency – which would free up certain funding and resources to address an outbreak, according to the state Division of Public Health.
"Given our status with the low number of cases, the state’s statute would not support a declaration, and the additional capabilities would not add value to the current response at this time," a DPH spokesperson said in a statement.
PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY:Biden administration declares monkeypox a public health emergency
Even though the risk remains low, state public health officials reminded Delawareans to be vigilant because “low risk does not mean no risk.”
The three most recent monkeypox, or MPX, cases involved a 42-year-old Kent County man and two New Castle County men, one a 19-year-old and one a 24-year-old. The state said these cases are unrelated.
None of the individuals reported recent travel, and none reported close contact with someone known to have MPX, DPH said. Even though one of the most common symptoms is a rash, state officials said the rash is not always easily noticeable, and the virus can spread unseen.
All three individuals reported close contact with a very limited number of individuals and are self-isolating, according to the state.
As vaccine distribution picks up across the country, here are some things to know about the spread of MPX in Delaware and the state's response so far.
Who can get monkeypox?
Anyone can become infected with monkeypox, DPH said. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported nationally, MPX is mostly affecting men who have sex with men at this point.
Still, the CDC and World Health Organization do not define the virus as a sexually transmitted infection, and not all infections have happened after sexual contact.
How does MPX spread?
Unlike COVID-19, monkeypox spreads primarily through direct contact with the rash or scabs of someone with MPX, state health officials said.
Contact may include intimate contact; kissing; cuddling; sharing kitchen utensils or toothbrushes; and coming into contact with an infected person’s bedding, bath towels or clothing.
Who can get a monkeypox vaccine?
Right now, people in Delaware can get monkeypox vaccines only if they have had direct contact with individuals who have a confirmed case of monkeypox. That’s because there is a limited supply of the vaccine, according to the Division of Public Health.
The vaccine also needs to be given in two doses 28 days apart.
The state has given 33 doses of the MPX vaccine as of Aug. 5, according to DPH, but health officials said that number may be higher due to reporting delays.
As more doses are becoming available, the state plans to make the vaccine available to high-risk populations.
Those who may be eligible for expanded vaccine access include:
People who are aware that one of their sexual or intimate partners in the past two weeks was diagnosed with MPX
Someone who has had multiple sex partners in the last 21 days (three weeks)
Someone who has met partners through dating apps or attended a party or club where intimate contact occurred
Those who are HIV positive or are receiving PrEP treatment for HIV without known exposure to MPX
When Delaware receives more doses depends on the federal allotment schedule. States can order more vaccine doses the week of Aug. 15, DPH said.
The state anticipates access for the highest-risk populations, based on risk of exposure and risk of severe burden of disease, within the next few weeks.
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Does the general public need the MPX vaccine?
No, the general public does not need the monkeypox vaccine, state health officials said.
"It is important to re-enforce how different this is from COVID-19 including when it comes to vaccination," a DPH spokesperson said in a statement. "Unlike with COVID-19, the general public does not need a MPX vaccine. It’s important to know that most people with MPX don’t have the same kind of severe illness and respiratory symptoms as seen with COVID-19, and the rates of hospitalizations and death are low."
So, what can people do? Educate themselves on ways to prevent the spread of illness, including monkeypox.
Federal officials have said that vaccination alone will not control the spread of infection and following recommendations for preventing the spread of illness are important.
Are people having reactions to the MPX vaccine?
Vaccine reactions may include redness, soreness, swelling and itching at the injection site, DPH said.
Other symptoms may include tiredness, headache and muscle pain. A severe allergic reaction is rare, according to state health officials, and the vaccine has not caused a "life-threatening event."
How does someone get the vaccine if exposed?
If someone was in close contact with a person confirmed to have MPX, the state Division of Public Health will contact them and coordinate vaccination.
To self-report an exposure or ask questions about monkeypox, people can call the hotline number at 866-408-1899.
Like any vaccine, the MPX vaccine is meant to protect against a certain virus by preventing the disease or making the disease less severe, according to state health officials.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Symptoms usually start within three weeks of exposure to the virus.
Most people who contract MPX will develop a rash, and some will develop flu-like symptoms beforehand. The flu-like symptoms may include fever, headache, muscle aches and backache, sore throat, cough, swollen lymph nodes, chills or exhaustion.
If someone has flu-like symptoms, they will usually develop a rash one to four days later.
If you suspect you are experiencing any symptoms associated with MPX, DPH advises people to immediately:
Contact their health care provider and mention their concerns.
Self-isolate until all lesions have resolved, the scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed.
Avoid being intimate with others.
Make a list of their close and intimate contacts in the last 21 days.
Is there a treatment for MPX?
There is no specific treatment for the monkeypox virus infection right now, DPH said, but antivirals can be prescribed.
These antivarials, such as tecovirimat, also tend to be prioritized for people who are more likely to get severely ill, like patients with weakened immune systems, the CDC said.
How to prevent MPX infection
Delaware public health officials have the following recommendations to avoid infection:
Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like MPX.
Individuals who are sexually active can minimize their risk of exposure by limiting the number of partners they have and talking to their partner about their recent history and behaviors.
Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with MPX.
Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with MPX.
Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with MPX.
Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with MPX.
Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Emily Lytle covers Sussex County from the inland towns to the beaches, with a focus on health-related issues. Got a story she should tell? Contact her at email@example.com or 302-332-0370. Follow her on Twitter at @emily3lytle.
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Delaware monkeypox cases grow as state aims to vaccinate those exposed