The number of monkeypox cases in Arizona continues to grow. As of Aug. 24 the Maricopa County Health Department has identified 228 confirmed and probable cases.
The increase has been seen across the country, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention now reports a total of 16,603 as of Aug. 24. Though New York and California lead the country in most cases of the virus, Arizona is 14th in cases observed.
The World Health Organization has declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency. The recommendation comes after outbreaks across the global community have caused many to take the virus more seriously.
The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization on Aug. 9 for health care providers to administer the vaccine for monkeypox in a new way to attempt to stretch the nation’s short vaccine supply. The new strategy could allow the country to vaccinate five times as many people using its limited stock.
Here is what you need to know about the monkeypox virus, vaccines and how to stay safe.
What is monkeypox and how do you get it?
Monkeypox is not a new virus. It was discovered in 1958 in a colony of monkeys that were being researched on. Though it's named "monkeypox" the actual origins of the virus are actually not clear.
The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970. The virus has since then shown up mostly in central and western African countries where it is endemic, meaning it has persistently infected people but has not been a huge cause of alarm. Before 2022, infections outside of this region of the world have largely been due to international travel.
The monkeypox virus is similar to smallpox, both being from the same family of the variola virus. Symptoms for monkeypox are milder than smallpox and rarely fatal.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
If you have been looking up what monkeypox is you have probably come across images of individuals with lesions like blisters and rashes on their bodies. But there are other things to look out for as well.
Symptoms for monkeypox are similar to those seen in smallpox.
Here are the most common symptoms the CDC has outlined:
Muscle aches and backache
Swollen lymph nodes
Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appear on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.
The symptoms may not always be noticeable and you may not experience everything listed above. In some cases, these lesions have been reported as very painful and potentially scarring.
How many cases of monkeypox are there in Arizona?
The CDC has reported 269 total cases of the monkeypox virus in Arizona. A total of 16,603 cases have been confirmed across the United States.
You can see the total case count using the CDC's mapping tool here (www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/response/2022/).
As of August 24, 2022, there have been a total of 228 confirmed and probable cases of monkeypox within Maricopa County, according to the Maricopa County of Department of Public Health.
The first confirmed case of the virus was reported back on June 7.
How does monkeypox spread?
There are multiple ways that this virus has been observed to spread, mainly through close physical contact. Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.
Person-to-person contact through rashes, scabs or fluids are examples of potential spread. Touching items that were previously been touched by infected rashes or fluids can also spread the virus.
Contact with infected animals is another way the virus spreads. Being scratched or bitten by an infected animal or by consuming products from an infected animal.
How to avoid monkeypox
Preventing the spread of monkeypox is similar to what we have been doing to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Washing your hands after coming in contact with someone, avoiding contact with people who have a rash and staying home when you are sick are the best ways to stay safe.
Is monkeypox an STD?
There's been a number of outbreaks across the country that were traced to LGBTQIA+ sexually active men. This has led some to think that this is a sexually transmitted disease or infection.
However, this is not the case.
The monkeypox virus is not classified as an STI, but due to the close contact during sex through which we know monkeypox can be spread outbreaks have occurred.
Classifying this virus can present a false sense of security. In an interview with Healthline, Dr. Michelle Forcier a clinician with FOLX Health explains that misinformation on how the virus is spread is harmful toward gay and bisexual men.
“The monkeypox rumors are harmful because they isolate and seem to ‘blame’ a particular group of persons for spreading this infection,” Forcier says. “Calling the monkeypox virus an STI and linking it to our culture’s view of sex as scary or shameful may keep persons exposed or infected from getting medical attention.”
Is there a vaccine for monkeypox?
Health care professionals are currently combatting the monkeypox virus by inoculating communities at most risk. Across Arizona, approximately 4,600 doses of the vaccine have been administered with more vaccine drives scheduled for the following weeks.
The two current vaccines were meant to prevent smallpox. The JYNEEOS and ACAM2000 vaccines have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for preventing the monkeypox virus due to their proven effectiveness in previous data.
Sonia Singh of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health says that the county has administered more than 2,100 doses from an allocation of 2,900 vaccines. There currently is a limited supply of the vaccine, but more is expected to be made available in the coming weeks.
Where can I get the monkeypox vaccine in Arizona?
Vaccine eligibility is extremely limited at the moment. The vaccine is being offered to groups who are at higher risk of being exposed.
In an interview with The Arizona Republic's health reporter Stephanie Innes, Dr. Nick Staab a medical epidemiologist for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health said, "Ideally, with more vaccine supply, we'll be able to give this to individuals who are at high risk but who have not necessarily been in contact with a case. That's often referred to as pre-exposure prophylaxis."
The Maricopa County Department of Public Health is handling the current doses of the vaccines. Here are the guidelines for who they are making vaccines available to:
Individuals who identify as:
Gay or bisexual men OR
Other (cis or trans) men OR
and who have
intimate or sexual contact with other men in a social or sexual venue OR
multiple or anonymous partners OR
Anyone who shares a household with a person who tested positive for monkeypox
Filling out this form from Maricopa County Health will let them know you are interested in receiving this vaccine. They stress that, "As there is a limited supply, completing this survey is not a guarantee of receiving a vaccine".
Is there a cure for monkeypox?
Currently there are no treatments specifically meant to cure monkeypox. Medications that are used were developed to protect against smallpox like antiviral drugs and vaccines. According to the CDC, this due to the genetic similarities of the two different viruses.
If you become infected with monkeypox, one treatment currently being used is an antiviral tecovirimat, also known as TPOXX. There's a limited supply of the treatment in Arizona and is on reserved for people with severe disease.
In an interview with Republic reporters Stephanie Innes and Melina Walling, department epidemiologist Dr. Nick Staab for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health shared that efforts to get more people treatment are being made.
"There is a supply of Tpoxx here in Maricopa County that's being managed through public health," Staab said. "We are working actively with our health care system partners to get a supply of Tpoxx into their systems so that it is more readily available and easy to get."
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Monkeypox in Arizona: What to know about symptoms, cases and cures