Monkeypox in Nebraska: Health officials say there is still time to slow spread

The World Health Organization is now calling monkeypox a Public Health Emergency. There are over 3,000 cases in the U.S., including five here in Nebraska.
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 5:07 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -The World Health Organization is now calling monkeypox a Public Health Emergency. There are over 3,000 cases in the United States, including five in Nebraska.

Dr. Mark Rupp is the infectious disease doctor at University of Nebraska Medical Center. He said monkeypox has existed for decades in central Africa, and sporadically causes small outbreaks in that region. But this time is different, as the disease has spread farther than its typical boundaries.

Monkeypox is a virus similar to smallpox but tends to be less severe. There are vaccines for monkeypox.

Dr. Rupp said monkeypox isn’t a transient virus, meaning you’re not going to catch it from someone by being in the elevator or passing by them. Getting monkeypox involves prolonged intimate contact.

“We think if we can give people who have had exposure, or who are at risk of exposure this new vaccine, we should be able to raise immunity and prevent them from contracting it and prevent it from being spread,” Dr. Rupp said.

Right now, the virus is mostly seen in men who have sex with men. Signs of monkeypox include painful skin lesions. Doctors said in this outbreak they’re largely concentrated in the genital area. Other symptoms include fever, chills, muscles aches and swollen lymph nodes. Dr. Rupp said vaccinating this higher-risk group can prevent monkeypox from becoming an endemic.

It’s also possible for people to get monkeypox from being scratched or bitten by infected animals.

“Something of greater concern is that it becomes endemic in the wild rodent populations in North America and then it does become an ongoing endemic disease that we will be left with,” Dr. Rupp said.

Dr. Rupp wants to emphasize that this virus doesn’t spread as easily as COVID-19. It usually takes prolonged intimate contact, however he urges people to be cautious and listen to professional medical advice.

Dr. Rupp said there’s no reason to panic, but there is a reason to take precaution. He said if you have an unexplained rash, you need to seek out medical help and reach out to people you’ve been in close contact with.

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