Acadiana added its fifth confirmed case of monkeypox Wednesday, according to daily reports from the state Department of Health.
But Dr. Tina Stefanski, regional medical director for the LDH District 4 Office of Public Health, which covers most of Acadiana, said monkeypox is not easily transmittable and suggested that people be careful but not overly concerned.
“The monkeypox virus is in the family of viruses that includes smallpox, but it is a much milder disease. It is rarely fatal,” she said. “With the current outbreak, there have been no confirmed deaths.”
Stefanski said there were 58 known cases in Louisiana and some 26,000 cases worldwide. She said what’s different is that many of the cases are in countries and regions that don’t typically report monkeypox cases.
Monkeypox was initially identified and confirmed in western African countries in the late 1950s.
There have been periodic outbreaks, such as in 2003 when 71 cases were confirmed in the American Midwest. Although the virus bears the name of monkeypox, Stefanski said, other animals can spread the virus. In the Midwest, cases were connected to prairie dogs. Other mammals that spread the virus include hedgehogs, squirrels and shrews.
Symptoms typically include a noticeable rash. She said sometimes people might suffer from the rash first, then suffer from fever and headache and not feel well. Or they might have fever and other symptoms first, then the rash. It is contagious, she said, when they have the symptoms.
She said monkeypox is also spreading from person to person, not from animals to people. It can be spread by close personal contact, to include sex, hugging or other skin-to-skin activities.
Literature suggests that monkeypox can spread from contact with bed sheets and toilet seats or sinks used by people who show symptoms. But mostly, it has spread through close intimate contact.
“One advantage we have is that the virus has been around for decades,” Stefanski said. “We have a vaccine that is safe and effective. There are also antiviral medications.”
She said that people who show symptoms such as the rash should contact their healthcare provider for testing. If they use community clinics or the local health unit, she said, they should call ahead.
To test for monkeypox, healthcare providers have to swab the rash lesions, then test using labs.
For more information, go to https://ldh.la.gov/ and type monkeypox into the search box. Or contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a monkeypox button will appear.