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Colorado health officials weigh in on monkeypox as cases rise in the state

Monkeypox vaccine
Posted at 10:33 PM, Jul 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-26 09:35:20-04

COLORADO — Health officials in the state are weighing in on the response to monkeypox, as confirmed cases in Colorado have climbed to 36 since May. This comes as El Paso County confirmed its first case of the virus on Friday.

On Saturday the World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a global health emergency, sparking an international response to the virus.

In Colorado, infections rose by 28 in July alone, compared to two total cases in May and six in June. Dr. Alexis Burakoff, a medical epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said the transmission rate of the virus is low and the fatality rate is less than one percent.

"Numbers have been going up, but the absolute number of cases is still quite small. This is not Covid, you know, this is not so contagious that you're going to catch it passing somebody in the grocery store. This is primarily spread through close contact," she said.

Monkeypox is spread through close and prolonged physical contact and is rarely spread by respiratory droplets. Symptoms of the virus include flu-like symptoms at first with a fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and exhaustion, according to CDPHE. One to three days after symptoms start, a rash may appear on the face, arms and legs.

Dr. Rosamund Lewis, the WHO’s lead expert on monkeypox, said 99% of reported cases outside of Africa are men and 98% of cases are among men who have sex with other men. Lewis said transmission outside of the gay community is low, but the CDC has confirmed monkeypox cases in two children as of July 22.

Dr. Chris Urbina, interim medical director for the El Paso County Public Health Department, said the gay community is not the only group at risk.

"It's not about having sex with men. It's about coming into close physical contact with somebody who has the infection. It really had no origin with men having sex with men. It's just that's currently how it spread," he said.

With cases rising in the state, questions are surrounding vaccine efforts. CDPHE said it is working with extremely limited doses of Jynneos, the FDA-approved vaccine administered in two doses and used to treat monkeypox. The department said it has given more than 1,300 doses at clinics around the state but does not know when the next shipment of vaccines from the federal government will come in.

"They are allocating to states based on case counts and population from what I understand," said Dr. Burakoff. "It has been quite limited to this point, but we are expecting more. We don't know exactly when yet."

She said the department is focused on getting people the first vaccine right now. According to CDPHE, those eligible for the vaccine include:

  • Gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men aged 18 years and older who have had multiple sexual partners, and/or sexual partners they did not previously know, in the last 14 days
  • Anyone aged 18 years and older who believes they have been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox in the last 14 days

Dr. Urbina said if you believe you have monkeypox, try to isolate yourself and call your healthcare provider for testing. The test includes scraping one of the suspected monkeypox lesions for a lab to test. Dr. Urbina said results should come back in around 48 hours.

CDPHE currently has monkeypox vaccination clinics on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday through the week of August 1. The health department says it is working to identify additional partner locations that can provide vaccines throughout the state.

Registration for appointments is temporarily closed due to a wait list of people and a low supply of vaccines. The health department said as it receives federally allocated doses, the form to register for an appointment will open again.

There are2,891 confirmed cases in the U.S. spanning 44 states. According to the CDC, Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Maine, Vermont, and Mississippi have not confirmed a case.

The virus has spread over 74 countries with 16,836 cases worldwide as of July 22, according to the CDC.

Europe is the epicenter for the virus, reporting more than 80% of infections worldwide. Europe has not historically reported monkeypox before the outbreak.

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