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Health experts talk about monkeypox in Oklahoma

Posted at 10:41 PM, Aug 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-09 09:47:26-04

TULSA, Okla. — Eleven cases of monkeypox have been reported in the Sooner State, four of them in Northeastern Oklahoma.

As the White House declares a state of emergency, 2 News Oklahoma talked with the state and local health departments about the virus and the trends they are seeing.

“Monkeypox is a pox virus that causes a rash and spreads mostly through skin-to-skin contact," Kendra Dougherty, Epidemiologist with the Oklahoma State Department of Health said.

Health experts said aside from a rash, symptoms include fever, and things like headache, muscle ache, chills, and fatigue. Although those symptoms may appear like the flu, it's spread differently.

“We are seeing a lot of cases in this outbreak that are associated with close intimate contact, sexual contact, and so if you are someone who is sexually active and are concerned about your personal risk level, then that’s something you can look at,” Madison Thomas, epidemiologist supervisor for the Tulsa Health Department said.

State and local health officials said a simple handshake with someone who has lesions on their hands can spread the virus too. That's why they said vaccines are very important.

“It reduces your risk for getting monkeypox, and by reducing the risk of getting the infection, then you’re going to reduce the risk of transmission as well,” Dougherty said.

There are two approved vaccines for the prevention of monkeypox. Both have limitations. The federal government allocated 5,555 dozes of the JYNNEOS vaccines for the state of Oklahoma.

Of those, the State Department of Health has only requested 436 and because each vaccination requires a two-dose treatment, the state only has enough supply to treat 213 people. .

Dougherty with the Oklahoma state department of health said the vaccine requires specific handling and storage, so the sate requests as it sees necessary.

“The treatments really are reserved for individuals who are symptomatic, who are either at high risk for severe complications or are positive," Dougherty said.

Dougherty said a person is highly contagious from the day of the first symptom up until the day the rash has completely healed. With quarantine and isolation guidelines fresh in the minds of Oklahomans, Dougherty said Monkeypox is different, spreading more slowly.

While the World Health Organization recently said more than 90 percent of cases are among gay and bisexual men, health experts said anybody can be exposed and the people need to stay aware.

“From COVID, we have learned that things can change over time, with some of these outbreaks so you know, stay on top of what is recommended for you,” Thomas said.

The State Department of Health is working with OU to look at their wastewater surveillance and they will release more information once they have interpreted the data.

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