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Monkeypox has arrived in Arkansas

Talk of monkeypox has been circulating since the first case was found in the U.S. in May. Yesterday, the Arkansas Department of Health confirmed the first case has been found in the state. ADH did not say where in the state. This comes after cases were found in both Oklahoma and Missouri last month.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is monkeypox?

According to the CDC, monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research. Despite being named “monkeypox,” the source of the disease remains unknown. However, African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) may harbor the virus and infect people.

The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970. Since then, monkeypox has been reported in people in several other central and western African countries. Prior to the this outbreak, nearly all monkeypox cases in people outside of Africa were linked to international travel to countries where the disease commonly occurs, or through imported animals.

How is it transmitted and how can it be prevented?

According to the CDC, monkeypox spreads through direct contact with body fluids or sores on the body of someone who has monkeypox, or with direct contact with materials that have touched body fluids or sores, such as clothing or linens. It may also spread through respiratory secretions when people have close, face-to-face contact.

"In the current monkeypox outbreak, we know that those with disease generally describe close, sustained physical contact with other people who are infected with the virus," the CDC said. "We continue to study other possible modes of transmission, such as through semen."

According to Cleveland Clinic, the best way to help prevent spread the monkeypox virus is to:

  • Avoid contact with infected animals (especially sick or dead animals).

  • Avoid contact with bedding and other materials contaminated with the virus.

  • Thoroughly cook all foods that contain animal meat or parts.

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.

  • Avoid contact with people who may be infected with the virus.

  • Practice safe sex, including the use of condoms and dental dams.

  • Wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose when around others.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

  • Use personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for people infected with the virus.

What are its symptoms?

Symptoms occur 7-14 days after exposure. According to the CDC, symptoms include:

  • Fever.

  • Headache.

  • Muscle aches and backache.

  • Swollen lymph nodes.

  • Chills.

  • Exhaustion.

  • A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals or anus.

Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to monkeypox should contact their health care provider to be tested, Dr. Jennifer Dillaha director for the Arkansas Department of Health, wrote in a news release.

Is there a vaccine?

Unlike the last virus that plagued the world, this is not a completely foreign virus to humanity, and there are already two FDA-approved vaccines available.

According to the CDC, the two FDA-approved vaccines are JYNNEOS (also known as Imvamune or Imvanex) and ACAM2000. However, no data are available yet on the effectiveness of these vaccines in the current outbreak.

In the U.S., there is currently a limited supply of JYNNEOS, although more is expected in coming weeks and months.

There is an ample supply of ACAM2000. However, this vaccine should not be used in people who have some health conditions, including a weakened immune system, skin conditions like atopic dermatitis/eczema or pregnancy.

People are considered fully vaccinated about 2 weeks after their second shot of JYNNEOS and 4 weeks after receiving ACAM2000. However, people who get vaccinated should continue to take steps to protect themselves from infection by avoiding close, skin-to-skin contact, including intimate contact, with someone who has Monkeypox.

Monkeypox and COVID-19?

Seth Blumberg, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine at UC San Francisco spoke with UCSF in May. The full article with Blumberg can be found here.

In regards to COVID-19, Blumberg said based on the prior history of monkeypox over the past few decades, and from what we have seen so far with the number of cases now, monkeypox has not reached a level of threat comparable to the ongoing COVID pandemic.

"So, while I think we can be cautiously optimistic that the outbreak will be controlled, I think it’s important to have some level of awareness about monkeypox and to be ready for the unexpected," he said.

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