Health officials urge education, awareness as Kansas keeps monkeypox at bay
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - With monkeypox declared a public health emergency, people around Kansas might wonder how worried they need to be.
The Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment reports only two cases in the state: one in Johnson Co. in mid-July, and the other in Shawnee Co. this week.
Dr. Kavitha Rao, an infectious disease specialist with Stormont Vail Health in Topeka, says the steady rise in monkeypox cases in the U.S. since May 2022 - a virus that has been very rare in this country - has public health officials keeping a close watch.
“Monkeypox is mild and it’s usually self-limited. Very rarely it can cause severe disease so that’s the good thing about this,” Dr. Rao said.
Monkeypox symptoms usually surface 7 to 14 days after exposure. It starts with typical symptoms associated with a viral illness, like a fever, headaches or sore throat. Several days later, a rash develops.
“This rash can evolve through various stages, then finally gets scabbed and crusted, and when the lesions are all crusted you’re considered that you have recovered,” Dr. Rao said.
While Kansas has had only two cases, the U.S. had topped more than 10,000 cases in all by Thursday. The CDC’s map showed three cases in Kansas, but KDHE has only announced two.
While there’s been much talk about the high number of cases among gay men, health officials stress anyone can get it. Monkeypox is primarily transmitted through skin-to-skin contact or exposure to contaminated clothing or bedding, but also may spread through prolonged close exposure to respiratory droplets.
The public health emergency allows the U.S. to free up resources for prevention and vaccination efforts, but Dr. Rao says people do not need to panic. Unlike the COVID health emergency, monkeypox is not a new virus, and testing and vaccines already are available.
“I would educate the public to know the signs and symptoms of this infection,” Dr. Rao said. “If you have viral illness symptoms along with rash, you need to be concerned, and I would recommend if it’s mild, stay home and isolate yourself.”
Vaccine supplies are limited, so it’s reserved for high-risk patients, with exposure to a confirmed case. In the Shawnee Co. situation, health officials are contacting those who qualify for it.
Dr. Rao says the vaccine is effective within four days of exposure.
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