The Chester County Health Department has activated its Monkeypox Health Operations Center (HOC) and is committing more resources to the overall outbreak response. A critical priority is ensuring accurate and factual information is communicated throughout the county. Today, we are sharing important information about monkeypox from the Chester County Health Department as part of our effort to advance a more resilient and healthy community for all residents of the Greater Coatesville area. The information in this blog is intended to promote education and awareness.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a contagious infection caused by the monkeypox virus. On July 23, 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern” and on August 4, 2022, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, with support from the White House, declared monkeypox a “public health emergency” in an effort to contain the continued spread of monkeypox. This declaration allows federal health officials the ability to expedite vaccines and treatment options for monkeypox.
At this time, the threat of monkeypox remains low.
It is hard to believe we are embarking upon yet another emerging contagious disease—monkeypox—despite still recovering from several years of battling COVID-19. While monkeypox is a rare viral disease, unlike COVID-19, it is not a new disease. Testing for monkeypox, a vaccine to prevent or lessen disease severity, and antiviral treatment to help manage the systems are already available.
Why is monkeypox a concern in the U.S.?
Public health officials are concerned because monkeypox is spreading and cases are presenting in ways not typically seen in past monkeypox outbreaks. Although the current strain of monkeypox that is circulating in the United States is rarely fatal, symptoms can be extremely painful, may lead to hospitalization, and may result in permanent scarring from the rash. A key focus is containing the continued spread of monkeypox.
How is it spread?
Monkeypox spreads in different ways such as:
- Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
- Direct contact with respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
- Touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids of the infected individual
- Pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta.
What are the signs and symptoms?
The telltale symptom is a rash that looks 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. Other symptoms that may or may not develop include: fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion.
How is it diagnosed?
Monkeypox is diagnosed through a laboratory test. Prior to being tested, an individual must be evaluated by a healthcare provider. If monkeypox is suspected, a specimen will be collected and sent to a certified laboratory for confirmation. Testing can be performed through private labs (such as Labcorp and Quest) for those with health insurance. For questions for individuals without health insurance, contact the Chester County Health Department for resources and guidance. Regardless of health insurance, individuals with a concern about an unexplained or newly developed rash should contact their healthcare provider or visit an urgent care facility or health clinic.
How long are individuals contagious?
Individuals are contagious from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The rash goes through different stages before healing completely, and the illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.
Who is getting infected?
Currently, the majority of monkeypox cases in the U.S. are among men having sex with men. However, anyone can get monkeypox if they have close contact with someone who has monkeypox, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection. However, like many other viruses, it can be transmitted through sexual activity.
Can monkeypox be treated?
Antiviral medications exist to help manage monkeypox symptoms and may be appropriate for some people. Individuals diagnosed with monkeypox must consult their healthcare provider to be prescribed antiviral medications. Vaccines exist that can help reduce the chance and severity of infection in those who have been exposed (known as close contact) or for individuals who have increased risk of being exposed. Widespread vaccination against monkeypox is not recommended at this time. Individuals who believe they need a vaccine should contact their healthcare provider or visit an urgent care facility.
Vista Today notes that, “Information and guidance for monkeypox are rapidly changing and expanding every week. As such, the county’s response remains fluid.” More information about monkeypox can be found at the PA Department of Health and the CDC, or visit https://www.chesco.org/5171/Monkeypox.
The Alliance for Health Equity (formerly Brandywine Health Foundation) is a philanthropic organization striving to advance a more equitable, resilient and healthy community for all residents of the Greater Coatesville area. We pursue our mission by providing grants and scholarships to local nonprofits and students that address health and economic disparities and social justice. We also build partnership programs and give voice to those often left out of community solution building to improve the overall health of their communities. 100% of contributions go directly to those in need.