BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and Mobile County Health Department (MCHD) have identified the first cases of monkeypox virus infection in Alabama.
The Mobile County patient’s specimen was tested by the ADPH Bureau of Clinical Laboratories (BCL), which is part of the Laboratory Response Network (LRN) that responds to public health emergencies.
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) also received a report from the ADPH Bureau of Clinical Laboratories of a positive specimen of monkeypox in a person who lives in the Jefferson County region. This is the second case to be identified in Alabama to date.
Information about the patient or where exactly they live were not released, but health officials say more cases are expected in Alabama.
In this outbreak of monkeypox in the United States, approximately 1,470 cases have been identified in 44 states and more are expected, according to Alabama Department of Public Health.
Dr. Wesley Willeford with the Jefferson County Department of Health says this is the first time a large number of monkeypox cases have been diagnosed in the United States, apart from the small outbreak in 2003. He is the Disease Control Medical Director at JCDH.
ADPH doctors said Monkeypox does not spread easily from person to person, but close, intimate, skin-to-skin contact appears to be the primary mode of transmission in the current global outbreak. It is possible that contact with materials used by infected persons, such as clothing and linens, can be a way to contract the virus. The virus typically enters the body through broken skin, respiratory droplets, or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth).
Symptoms in this most current outbreak have not been as typical as in previous cases of monkeypox. Instead, persons will have a rash that starts out as flat spots, followed by raised spots, then vesicles that are deep-seated, have a tiny spot in the middle of the vesicle, and may be itchy or painful.
Dr. Willeford says they’re searching for anyone who may have been exposed and are at risk.
“What we really need right now and hoping to have this before too long is allocations from the federal government with some of the vaccine that’s available,” said Dr. Willeford. “The vaccine that’s available right now is called JYNNEOS. We’re hoping that the state and other parts of the country are all vying for it at this point.”
Dr. Willeford says many are hoping production of the monkeypox vaccine will increase so more of it will be available soon.
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The rash may only be on one part of the body. Some people may only have the rash and not develop other symptoms such as fever, flu-like illness, headache, muscle aches, or fatigue.
The time between exposure to the virus and when the illness begins is about 7-14 days but can be as long as 21 days. Some people who have had monkeypox have been men who have sex with men, but any person exposed to a person with monkeypox and close skin-to-skin contact can be infected.
Steps to help prevent monkeypox include the following:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with a person who has monkeypox.
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, clothing, or towels of a person who has monkeypox.
- Have persons with monkeypox isolate away from others.
- Wash hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after contact with ill people who have monkeypox.
- Avoid contact with animals that could have the virus (such as animals that are sick or that have been found dead).
Testing for monkeypox can be done at the ADPH BCL and some commercial laboratories. An effective vaccine against monkeypox exists, but at this time there is no recommendation for vaccination for those with no known exposure to confirmed cases. Antiviral treatment can be considered in persons who have certain high-risk conditions, such as immunosuppression.
For more information about monkeypox, visit the ADPH monkeypox webpage at alabamapublichealth.gov/monkeypoxor the CDC monkeypox webpage at cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/index.html
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