Health officer: County has 'all the resources that we need' to address monkeypox now

·4 min read

LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Last Thursday, the White House declared monkeypox a public health emergency. This comes after weeks of reported monkeypox cases popping up across the country, and in turn, raising concerns among health officials and the public.

In hopes of addressing the growing outbreak of monkeypox, the White House’s declaration allows the federal government the ability to grant funding to state and local health officials as well as provide them with other resources to address the disease.

"We are prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously," said Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, in Thursday’s briefing.

Public health emergencies last for 90 days but can be extended by the secretary.

The Journal & Courier reached out to the Tippecanoe County Health Department to see if the White House’s declaration would affect any of the preparation that the county had been making since announcing the first three local cases in late July.

“We have no changes that will be implemented based on that emergency declaration,” said Dr. Gregory Loomis, the Tippecanoe County Health Department health officer.

“A lot of the time, when an emergency declaration is announced, it allows money to flow, and it allows access to different resources. We have all the resources that we need from the state of Indiana and Tippecanoe County.”

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In collaboration with the Indiana State Department of Health, the Tippecanoe Health Department was chosen to be one of the eight distribution centers of the vaccine across the state. As of Friday, the health department had received 20 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine, which is one of two major vaccines used to prevent monkeypox virus infection.

When it comes to the distribution of the vaccine, health officials are currently operating on the first phase of the national monkeypox vaccine strategy.

“We’re presently in phase 1 vaccinations. Phase 1 at this time are patients who are HIV positive, who’ve admitted to having sex with men and immunocompromised patients. Next will be HIV-positive patients who have no comorbidity, and the last group will be the general population who’ve been exposed,” said Loomis.

“Phase 1 is pretty much the state-mandated response, and I agree with the way that they set it up. It’s very methodical.”

Loomis stresses the point that although this disease is currently primarily affecting men who have sex with men, there are a small number of cases breaking through into other groups.

“Ninety-nine percent of contacts are men having sex with men, but we are seeing it break through that small group of people into bigger groups. We’ve seen it in heterosexual adults, we’ve seen it in women. I don’t think it’s going to be long lived in that group, but our main focus is on men having sex with men,” he added.

For individuals not within the highest-risk group, Loomis advises them not to worry, but to be cautious of prolonged skin-to-skin contact with others. “Number one, if you’re a male having sex with a male, or multiple partners, that puts you in the 99% group. Everybody else would be in the one percent and I would not want people to worry or to panic. We have 20,000 cases worldwide and nobody has died. And like I said, this doesn’t have the right stuff to become a pandemic.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that the disease is known to spread through close or skin-to-skin contact, close intimate interactions with others and touching objects such as bedding and surfaces touched by an infected person.

Patients with monkeypox commonly have symptoms that include fever, chills, headaches, respiratory issues, swollen lymph nodes and a rash resembling blisters or pimples that can be itchy or painful. Monkeypox is not known to be fatal.

Currently, Indiana has reported 68 cases, a total that has increased since late July.

In surrounding states, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Illinois each have cases, with Kentucky reporting nine, Ohio 45, and Michigan 70. Illinois has reported 602 cases of monkeypox.

Nationwide, the state of New York has the most confirmed cases in the country with 1,862 as of Aug. 8. Montana and Wyoming were the only two states with no reported cases of monkeypox.

Across the globe, there are a total of 26, 864 cases in 88 different locations. The United States has the most reported cases in the world with just over 7,000.

Tippecanoe County advises that if someone has flu-like symptoms — fever, headache, chills, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, exhaustion and/or a newly developed rash — they should call their health provider.

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Journal & Courier: Tippecanoe County prepared for monkeypox outbreak, health officer says