JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Just two days after the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a public health emergency, there’s growing frustration among local healthcare professionals that enough is not being done to prevent a widespread outbreak.
Doctors are calling this a rapidly escalating outbreak with cases detected in 44 states. Washington DC has the highest case rate by population, followed by New York State and then Georgia.
It was reported Friday that two children, a toddler and an infant, were diagnosed with monkeypox. Until now, monkeypox cases have been concentrated primarily among men in the gay community.
UF’s Director of Infection and Prevention Chad Neilsen expressed his frustration about what he calls impediments we’re seeing in Florida to combat monkeypox.
“We know the playbook of how to stop this, and unfortunately, it’s not happening,” Neilsen said.
RELATED: 1 confirmed case and 1 suspected case of monkeypox in Duval County
He said there seems to be confusion on testing, and where to submit yourself for exposure notification, along with lack of information about obtaining the vaccine.
“I’m told by our local Florida Department of Health, Duval county counterparts that they do have some, and they are prepared to deploy it for folks who have been exposed. I can’t speak any more than that,” Neilsen said.
News4JAX learned the State of Florida has received about 25,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine from the White House, with an additional 10,700 doses requested. People who are considered to be high risk for the infection are able to get the shot.
Monkeypox is a rare disease that doctors say is similar to smallpox with symptoms including fever, headaches, muscle aches and a rash resembling pimples with pus-filled blisters.
The rash can develop all over the body including the face, hands and even inside the mouth.
Monkeypox has infected nearly 3,000 Americans, and according to the CDC, Florida has reported 180 cases so far. Doctors say 98% of the current cases are among men who have sex with men, but Neilsen says it’s not a sexually transmitted disease, but instead, one that is spread by contact.
“We’d like to compare it to Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), [a staph infection difficult to treat]. So years ago, we used to hear about MRSA Mersa outbreaks amongst like high school football teams because they were sharing razors or sharing towels or sharing other items with each other that had close contact to their skin with sweat or body fluids on it. That’s what we’re talking about for monkeypox spread at this point,” Neilsen said.
Close contact in clubs while dancing or even sleeping in someone else’s bed can lead to a monkeypox infection.
Despite what the frustration medical professionals are feeling about outbreak prevention, Health and Human Services Director Xavier Becerra said America is ahead of the disease.
“So we have to stay ahead of it, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do since day one,” Becerra said.
Neilsen, however, said the disease is spreading at an alarming rate.
“So for people in my field, it’s very frustrating to watch this happen. I think that we did not learn a lot of those lessons from COVID. We have been sluggish on testing sluggish on our response, with vaccines, sluggish with public health announcements to the at-risk communities,” Neilsen said.
The disease from the virus can last 2 to 4 weeks, with a 3% to 6% fatality rate, according to the WHO.
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