What Missourians should know about monkeypox after 1st probable case

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s health department reported its first probable monkeypox case in Kansas City.

Over the weekend, the Kansas City Health Department (KCHD) reported that a Missourian who recently traveled outside of the state was tested for monkeypox. While results from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are still pending, what does this mean for the rest of Missouri? Could the state be headed towards another pandemic?

“Usually in the history of monkeypox, it’s zoonotic, usually transmitted from animals to humans,” MU Health Care infectious disease specialist Christin Rojas said. “Monkeypox is generally very rare. The transmission ability between humans is very low, lower than in the case of COVID.”

It’s not a new disease. What’s new is the outbreak of monkeypox cases around the world. According to the CDC, here in the U.S., there have been at least 113 confirmed cases.

“Monkeypox is a typical rash that can affect the whole body and contact with these lesions, there is a virus in those lesions, and it can be transmitted from human to human,” Rojas said.

Last week, a nurse in the Kansas City area suspected a patient might have the virus. That patient was given a test that came back positive at the state lab. Health officials in the area are investigating close contacts.

“This week, one of our excellent nurses suspected one of our patients may have monkeypox virus,” said Dr. Marvia Jones, Director of the Kansas City Health Department. “We are considering this a probable case of monkeypox virus until we receive final confirmation from the CDC labs. We appreciate the work our disease investigation and nursing staff have done to educate themselves on this rare virus and be on alert for it.”

The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) did not identify the patient by name, age, or gender.

“We know about monkeypox compared to two years ago when SARs COVID-2 virus was new and we had to develop testing procedures, the test, and the vaccines,” Rojas said. “Now, we already have testing available at the CDC for Monkeypox.”

The last outbreak happened roughly two decades ago and although similar to smallpox, he said it’s much less deadly. Signs of monkeypox include flu-like symptoms, a rash, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. The virus can be contracted by touching the rash or by an animal.

“Different ways could be a bite or a scratch from an infected animal like a rodent,” Rojas said. “Contact with those infected animals or contact with the infected bodily fluid from those infected animals or in terms of human to humans, the transmission usually requires close contact and prolonged contact through respiratory droplets.”

While there is a vaccine, most patients are not hospitalized. The infection can last anywhere from two to four weeks.

“At this point, do not panic,” Rojas said. “There probably will not be a max vaccination like it was for COVID.”

The University of Missouri started collecting and testing wastewater samples during the pandemic to detect COVID outbreaks in communities across the state. DHSS said that the same protocol could be used for monkeypox but it’s currently not happening at this time.

Monkeypox is typically endemic to parts of central and west Africa. Anyone experiencing a widespread rash and fever should contact their physician.

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