Gov. DeSantis dismisses monkeypox concerns, will not declare state of emergency despite rising cases

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday waved off the idea of declaring a state of emergency in response to a growing nationwide outbreak of the monkeypox virus, despite Florida having the third-largest number of cases.

Data from the Florida Department of Health shows that 888 cases of monkeypox have been reported in the state as of Saturday, with the highest concentration in South Florida since May. The bulk of new cases, 672, were reported in just 3 weeks.

Florida had the third-highest number of cases in the nation as of Monday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

DeSantis on Wednesday directly criticized states such as California, New York and Illinois, led by Democratic governors, for issuing emergency declarations amid climbing cases of the virus.

“You see some of these states declaring states of emergency. They’re going to abuse those emergency powers to restrict your freedom. I guarantee you that’s what will happen. We saw it so much with COVID,” DeSantis exclaimed during a press event in Brevard County.

As of Saturday, 324 cases have been logged in Broward County and 348 cases in Miami-Dade County.

One case has been reported in a person aged 0-5 in Martin County.

Though monkeypox has been around since at least 1958, when it got its name, The World Health Organization declared the virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on July 23. The rare designation signifies the disease is a threat that needs a coordinated worldwide response.

RELATED: UN health agency chief declares monkeypox a global emergency

Monkeypox can cause flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes and progress to a rash on the face and body that looks like pimples or blisters. The rash can be painful or itchy, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People infected can be contagious for weeks before showing severe symptoms.

New-born babies, children and people with immune system deficiencies may be at risk of more severe symptoms and death from the disease.

The CDC suggests individuals with monkeypox wear a mask if they must be around others in their homes if close, face-to-face contact is likely.

The federal government on Aug. 4 declared a public health emergency over monkeypox, and in July, the World Health Organization declared it a public health emergency of international concern.

State Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, appointed by DeSantis last year to spearhead the state’s response to the coronavirus, said Wednesday that none of the recorded monkeypox cases in Florida have resulted in death.

“We have about 500 known cases, but only heaven knows how many actual cases there have been. Out of those cases, probably somewhere around 98%, maybe 99%, are in men,” Ladapo said, noting that there are “just a handful of cases in women.”

“Almost all of those cases have been transmitted by physical contact, basically sexual contact,” he said. Ladapo added that the state has received about 24,000 doses of vaccine for monkeypox and has distributed roughly 8,500.

Ladapo has a history of questioning the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines despite the vast majority of medical professionals, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Mayo Clinic, having emphasized the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

RELATED: In race for monkeypox vaccines, experts see repeat of COVID

Misinformation about the transmission of the disease has been taking focus. Notably that the disease is exclusively a sexually transmitted infection (STI), which primarily is spread through sexual contact, whether oral, vaginal or anal. Some, like herpes, can be spread via skin-to-skin contact, but it is not the primary means. Monkeypox is the other way around.

Contact with objects that have been in contact with the infected person—such as clothing, bedding, towels—or objects such as eating utensils also represent a source of infection.

The risk of becoming infected is not limited to sexually active people or men who have sex with men. Anyone who has close physical contact with someone who is contagious is at risk. Two children have gotten the disease.

In an interview with the NPR podcast, All Things Considered, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, mentioned that monkeypox cases have occurred in men who have sex with other men. However, it is not only a disease affecting the LGBTQIA+ community.

Health care providers who suspect a possible case of monkeypox should immediately contact their county health department or the 24/7 disease reporting hotline at 850-245-4401.

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