Dallas is ready if the monkeypox comes to Texas, says a health official

A Dallas County senior health official says the city is ready if monkeypox came to Texas after the district dealt with its first case nearly a year ago.

Nearly 260 confirmed and 130 suspected cases of monkeypox were reported to the World Health Organization last week, as the smallpox-like virus continues to spread to non-native countries, including the United States.

Dr Rosamund Lewis, the WHO’s chief expert on monkeypox, said on Sunday that he did not expect the recent outbreak to turn into a pandemic, although researchers were still learning exactly how the virus was spreading and what factors could increase its transmission. Associated Press.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated the total number of confirmed cases of monkeypox in the United States to 18 in nine states on Tuesday. Texas has no confirmed cases.

Although Lone Star State seems to have avoided the current spread of the virus so far, North Texas is familiar with the monkeypox, which was born in Central and West Africa. Nearly a year ago, a Dallas hospital treated a patient infected with the virus while traveling, triggering public health alarms and preparing local experts for potential future cases of monkeypox.

“It simply came to our notice then. We have dealt with other similar things before. I think we are certainly well prepared, “said Dr. Philip Huang, director of the Dallas County Health Department.

What is monkeypox?

Smallpox is a virus transmitted from animals to humans that causes symptoms similar to the already eradicated smallpox virus, although smallpox is less contagious and less severe. It is spread from animal to human or human to human through close contact with lesions, body fluids and contaminated materials such as clothing and bedding.

About one to two weeks after infection, most patients begin to experience fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes, according to the CDC.

Between one and three days after developing a fever, patients develop a rash that often begins on the face before spreading to other parts of the body. The lesions from the rash go through several stages before scabs form and fall off.

The disease lasts about two to four weeks. Recently, about 3% to 6% of cases have been fatal, the WHO said.

The virus is not new. Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 in colonies of monkeys kept for research, although several different animals can transmit the disease, including rodents. The first case of human monkeypox was reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970, and since then cases have been reported in several Central and West African countries.

Cases of monkeypox have also been documented in countries outside Africa, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and Singapore. Historically, cases outside Africa have been related to international travel or imported animals.

The current epidemic looks a little different from past outbreaks of the virus. “The vast majority of reported cases” in the current epidemic have no connection to travel to countries where the disease is local, meaning the virus is likely to spread undetected for some time, the WHO said.

Some patients do not experience flu-like symptoms, but instead simply report rashes on certain parts of the body, such as the genitals. These suppressed symptoms make the virus more difficult to diagnose, said Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, an assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Baylor Medical College.

Recent cases have also been reported to a large extent in men who have sex with men, although Kulkarni stressed that people of any sexual orientation can potentially become infected.

At the moment, scientists do not think of monkeypox as a “sexually transmitted infection in the way we would consider HIV, gonorrhea or chlamydia to be sexually transmitted,” he said. “Rather, it is transmitted through direct close contact, but it does not have to be sexual contact.”

What treatments are there?

Most people with a healthy immune system infected with smallpox will experience mild symptoms that go away on their own. People who are at high risk for serious illness – including immunocompromised patients, children under 8 or people who are pregnant or breastfeeding – may want to contact the CDC about treatment options.

There are no treatments designed specifically for monkeypox infections, but an antiviral drug developed to treat smallpox is licensed to treat monkeypox, the WHO said.

The best way to prevent the spread of smallpox is to take preventative measures, such as avoiding contact with sick people or animals that can harbor the virus, and using personal protective equipment when caring for someone who has smallpox. .

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a vaccine called Jynneos to prevent monkeypox and it is being evaluated for potential use in people who are at risk of exposure to the virus. According to the WHO, vaccines used to stop smallpox also provide protection against monkeypox.

Most countries stopped their smallpox vaccination programs in the 1980s after the virus was declared eradicated, and Lewis said it was uncertain whether people who had previously been vaccinated against smallpox were still have immunity against monkeypox more than four decades later.

What Dallas leaders learned from the monkeypox case in 2021

When Dallas County officials learned of the Dallas monkey case last July, they began acting to isolate the patient and make recent close contacts. The patient, who has not been publicly identified, recently traveled from Lagos, Nigeria, and had a connecting flight through Atlanta.

Huang said a team of county, state and CDC public health officials helped monitor close contacts for 21 days after the potential exposure. None of the close contacts have ever developed symptoms.

“It was a public success,” Huang said. “But it was some basic public health control that we do in a lot of situations.”

In addition to being the home of the first case of monkeypox in Texas, Dallas was also the site of the first case of Ebola in the United States during the 2014 epidemic.

Early diagnosis of the monkeypox case may have prevented further spread of the virus, said Dr. Agam Rao, a medical officer with the CDC’s Department of Pathogens and Pathology with High Consequences.

“The clinicians in this case made things so fast and so impressive that they are something of a model for other clinicians,” Rao said.

Although Texas may see a case of monkeypox in the coming weeks or months, this is not inevitable, especially since the disease is spread primarily through close contact rather than through airborne pathogens.

“It is very unlikely that monkeypox will spread in the same way that COVID spread so quickly in so many different countries,” Kulkarni said.

If anyone suspects they have the virus, they should contact a healthcare provider immediately to help mitigate the spread of the disease, he said.

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