JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern, News4JAX talked to a local infectious disease specialist to learn more about the rise of the infection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States is reporting over 2,800 probable or confirmed monkeypox cases in 44 states, DC and Puerto Rico.
Globally, there are over 16,500 cases reported in 74 countries with five deaths in Africa. Doctors are saying that Europe is the epicenter of the outbreak.
As of Thursday, there were 247 monkeypox cases reported in Florida. 124 cases were reported in Broward county alone. Alachua County is reporting one case so far.
Dr. Mohammed Reza said the total number of cases is being undercounted.
“The reality is, this is likely undercounted, the number of infection, just because of limited knowledge. First of all, limited testing capabilities. We don’t have too many labs performing these tests,” Reza said.
The initial symptoms of Monkeypox are swollen lymph nodes, back pain, muscle aches, lack of energy and headache.
A rash will then follow those symptoms and lesions could appear on the face, arms and legs. Usually, those lesions will go away within two to three weeks and then the person is no longer contagious.
Unlike COVID-19, there are already treatment options for monkeypox. One of those is the smallpox vaccine.
There are antivirals for the virus, but Reza said testing can be difficult.
“Just like COVID-19 was initially hard to diagnose, we’re kind of at that step. But unlike COVID-19, this is not as contagious and hopefully not as severe of a disease as well,” Reza said.
Reza did say this virus is something that people shouldn’t fear. Instead, he suggests people arm themselves with knowledge.
“If you do see this in your loved ones then be aware, get access to help. Talk to your provider and see what can be done,” Reza said.
The monkeypox virus can spread through contact with body fluids, sores or items such as clothing and bedding contaminated with the virus. It can also spread person-to-person through respiratory droplets, typically in a close setting, according to the CDC.
A larger number of cases this year have been in men who have sex with men and public health officials are focusing their prevention efforts on this group.
Reza also said monkeypox can spread to pets, so it’s recommended to quarantine from them as well if you are infected.