SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio Metropolitan Health District officials separated fact from fiction at an educational forum about prevention and transmission of the latest public health emergency -- the monkeypox virus.
The Biden Administration declared monkeypox a public health crisis on Thursday as the country sees over 6,000 cases.
Texas has reported 527 cases, and Bexar County has reported 16 as of Thursday.
Metro Health Assistant Director Anita Kurian said the public needs to learn about this virus to learn how to prevent exposure.
“It’s very important, in this, to understand what it is and how it is transmitted, so you can take the prevention strategies,” Kurian said.
What are the signs and symptoms of monkeypox?
- Someone infected will experience flu-like symptoms 1-3 weeks after exposure.
- Ninety-nine percent of people reported experiencing a rash occurring 3-4 weeks after exposure. It may begin as a rash and develop into painful lesions with a dot in the middle.
- Sixty-four percent of people reported having a fever.
- Seventy percent of people reported fatigue.
- Sixty-three percent of people reported swollen lymph nodes.
Who is at risk of becoming infected?
- Everyone, as “the window of containment is rapidly closing,” according to Dr. Kurian.
- Currently, 99% of the reported cases throughout the country and locally have been linked to gay and bisexual men. Kurian said the virus does not discriminate.
“I cannot emphasize this enough, that any person, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, can acquire and transmit the disease if you come in close contact with somebody who has some,” Kurian said.
How can I prevent myself from becoming infected with monkeypox?
- Transmittable behavior is direct, prolonged contact with someone who has rashes or scabs.
- Kissing, cuddling or dancing at a crowded party with minimal clothing can also increase your chances of becoming infected.
- Monkeypox does NOT spread through casual contact, like touching a doorknob or using public restrooms or public transit.
- It is unclear whether an asymptomatic person can spread the virus. Kurian said there is limited data on that.
What about a vaccine for monkeypox?
- Currently, there is no vaccine specifically for monkeypox, but Kurian said smallpox vaccines are being used because the two viruses are in the same family.
- If you have not had the smallpox vaccine within the last two years, Kurian said it might not be effective against monkeypox.
Who can get a smallpox vaccine?
- Priority doses will go to people who are infected.
- Second priority doses will go to people who were in close contact with someone infected
- People who are Immunocompromised or people living with HIV and exposed to the virus may be eligible.
Last week, San Antonio received enough vaccines for 500 people. Health officials are hopeful that more doses will be available soon, but it is unclear when.
How can we treat monkeypox?
- Currently, there is no treatment for monkeypox, and it is mainly treated with antiviral drugs.
- People who are exposed are asked to quarantine until their scabs have healed, which can take several weeks.
How can I stay updated?
San Antonio Metro Health will provide daily updates on cases and information here. Health officials will host another forum at Luther’s Cafe on Aug. 18.