Should we prepare for monkeypox? We checked in with local health experts

Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 6:30 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - After over two years of a pandemic, some may not have given much thought to the current monkeypox outbreak.

The World Health Organization says it is a global concern. There are no confirmed cases locally, but Georgia is ranked 5th in the country for total cases.

South Carolina is in the middle of the pack, ranked 25th.

We spoke with our local doctors who say it’s only a matter of time before our area has its first case.

There are almost 3,500 confirmed monkeypox cases across the country. Right now, places like New York, California, Florida, Illinois, and Georgia have some of the highest case counts.

Georgia has just under 300 cases, most of them in Atlanta. Doctors say we could see a case in the CSRA any day now.

With monkeypox vaccines rolling out to states with the highest case counts, doctors in the CSRA say they’re educating staff and putting protocols in place for their first case.

“Having 200 or more cases in Georgia now, we’re eventually going to get here,” said Dr. Jose Vazquez.

He is the chief infectious disease expert at Augusta University. He says the disease has been around since the 1960s when research monkeys were infected by rodents in Africa.

It looks very similar to smallpox.

“It’s very intense and looks like pimples or blisters. It can be anywhere on the face, inside of the mouth, and the most common area is the peri-anal or genital region, so very similar to herpes,” he said.

Vazquez states that 98 percent of patients are bi-sexual or homosexual males, but anyone can contract the virus if they have direct and intense contact with someone infected.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s going to spread from person to person through direct contact. Pretty intense direct contact. Contact which is open wounds or sores or body fluids.

Georgia Department of Public Health says cases we’re seeing now are not what doctors are used to treating in the past.

Dr. Lee Merchen, director of public health with GADPH said: “They feel like they’ve got the flu and they’ve got a fever and feel icky and rundown before they’re developing the pox, which is unusual. We’re also to seeing pox as disseminated throughout the body as we have in other cases of monkeypox.”

If you believe you have monkeypox, health officials are urging you to go to your doctor and get tested.

Augusta University and DPH both say that this is not a sexually transmitted infection and that anyone can contract it. It’s also rarely fatal.

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