ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — On Tuesday, Dr. Cynthia Morrow — director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts — gave updates on the risks of monkeypox in southwest Virginia and what to look out for.
“There is a very, very low risk of respiratory transmission, but overwhelmingly, the transmission is direct contact with the skin of someone who has monkeypox sores,” said Morrow.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reported a total of 112 probable monkeypox cases — referred to as “orthopoxvirus” — and confirmed monkeypox cases around the Commonwealth on Tuesday, Aug. 2, including three from southwest Virginia.
Health officials say 111 of those cases are men and one is a woman, with most of them between the ages of 20 and 49. In addition, more than 30 doses of the monkeypox vaccine have been administered.
“We know that people are at greater risk if they have multiple sexual partners and if they have anonymous sexual partners or if they’re a commercial sex worker,” said Morrow.
Dr. Charles Schleupner with infectious diseases at Carilion Clinic says monkeypox is not an sexually transmitted disease, but rather a disease that’s easily transmitted during sex.
“Just brushing up against somebody’s shirt sleeve, that’s pretty low risk kind of stuff,” he said. “If they happen to have a lesion, does it possibly throw you into an intermediate risk? Yeah, sure, but that means you just watch for it.”
He adds that before skin lesions or bumps start to appear, people would experience other symptoms, such as fever, headache, malaise, not feeling well, or even some lymph nodes or swollen lymph glands in your neck or your armpit.
When it comes to vaccines, doctors say there is a limited supply but aren’t concerned about not having enough.
According to Morrow, “People who are not in those high risk groups don’t need it. This is not a disease that is casually transmitted.”
Right now, the vaccine is being distributed at health clinics like Carilion Clinic. Schleupner says people could be put on a list and depending on how high risk you are, it could take a few days to get the vaccination.
Morrow says because of the difference in transmission, they don’t expect the spread to be anything like COVID-19.
Health officials continue to stress the importance of knowing the background of your partners or anyone who you might get very close to for a long period of time. That would help prevent not knowing if you have or have not been with someone who has contracted monkeypox.
Having symptoms of monkeypox, along with having been in contact with someone who may have skin lesions or recently visited a place with higher cases, would be cause for calling a healthcare provider.