Florida has once again become a hot state for not only controversy but the monkeypox virus. New York is leading the country in monkeypox cases and California comes in second. This week Florida ranked 3rd in the highest amount of reported monkeypox cases in the United States. Broward county alone is reported to have half of the entire state’s total cases. Broward county includes popular cities such as Boca Raton and West Palm Beach. Miami-Dade would be the second county in Florida to have the most reported cases.
On July 23rd, 2022, the World Health Organization announced that “monkeypox represents a public health emergency of international concern”. Illinois, California, and New York have declared a state of emergency to help fight the monkeypox outbreak. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has unsurprisingly been opposed to declaring a state of emergency even in light of Florida’s new case ranking.
Declaring a state of emergency can help with logistics and coordination between departments working to respond to an emergency. In the case of monkeypox, it would allow for more resources, testing, funding, and vaccinations. At a press conference, DeSantis was quoted saying “I am so sick of politicians-and we saw this with Covid-trying to sow fear into the population. We are not going to go out and try to rile people up”. There is a fine line between causing panic and responding to a viral outbreak appropriately.
What is monkeypox?
First, let’s take a look at what monkeypox is and how you can get it. Monkeypox is in the same family as smallpox. The symptoms are similar to smallpox as but tend to be milder. Monkeypox is rarely fatal, but can be extremely uncomfortable and cause serious disruption to your life. Monkeypox was first discovered in monkies that were being held for research in 1958. The first human case was reported in 1970. Before the current outbreak in 2022, human cases were found in people and rodents in central and western African countries.
Like most viruses that spread it is reported that people and animals living outside of these countries contracted it from international travel and through imported animals. There are two strains of the virus and the one that is circulating in different regions is known to be the “milder virus”.
Symptoms of Monkey Pox
Unfortunately, monkeypox has a long incubation period. It can take four to twenty-one days after someone has been exposed to become ill. Here are some signs and symptoms to look out for in order of occurrence.
-The earliest stages of monkeypox, you will feel generally unwell.
-Flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills can include swollen lymph nodes.
-Within a few days of experiencing the above, a blister/pimple-like rash will appear. Typical monkeypox starts on the face but it has been noted that in a lot of cases in the United States that the rash is beginning in the groin. This is likely due to sexual contact being the dominant way of transmission. The spots can also look like chicken pox.
-After one week to several weeks the rash will dry up and the spots will scab.
-Once the scabs are completely healed and gone, this is most likely when monkeypox has officially left the system and you are no longer contagious.
How can you catch Monkey Pox?
Monkeypox is spread by direct contact with an infectious rash, scrapes, or body fluids. You can get monkeypox from prolonged face-to-face contact such as kissing, cuddling, or sexual intercourse. Touching or handling linen such as clothing or bedding that has been touched or worn by someone with monkeypox can cause contamination. Pregnant people can give their fetus monkeypox if they contract it. The CDC also reports you can get monkeypox from meats if the animal is infected. You can also get monkeypox from an infected animal if they scratch or bite you.
Specific studies are being done on the length of time monkeypox can live on a surface. The EPA has stated that monkeypox can live on hard surfaces with sunlight for a few hours. Fabrics like a couch or a piece of clothing can have the biological agent on them for up to two weeks. The two biggest biological factors for monkeypox would be humidity and sunlight and if the material has the ability to absorb liquid or not. A recent study again by the EPA found that the virus will die off quicker above 86 degrees Fahrenheit and above 70 percent relative humidity. Being that Florida is almost always falling into this range it does give some insight into how monkeypox is being contracted in the State.
It is more likely people are getting monkeypox in Florida from close contact and touching. It is still festival season, and due to the overcrowding everywhere it is not uncommon to be bumping into people and unfortunately swapping some normal Florida sweat. Also, Dr. Aileen Marty gave an interview with the Herald claiming that Florida’s numbers are higher because the state already has a high occurrence of sexually transmitted infections. The most common way to get monkeypox is through sexual contact therefore if Florida is experiencing a high amount of STI’s they would see a rise in monkeypox cases.
How can you prevent monkeypox?
Monkeypox prevention can be similar to how we have been trying to prevent covid-19.
-Avoid close contact with people who have a rash that looks like money pox.
-Do not touch the rash of someone with monkeypox.
-Don’t share utensils with someone who has monkeypox.
-Don’t have sexual contact with someone who has monkeypox.
-Wear a mask.
-Wear gloves when necessary.
-Frequently wash your hands.
-Do not handle the clothing, bedding, or towels of someone with monkeypox. If you have to perform these tasks (for example house cleaning or healthcare workers) wear gloves and avoid the items touching your skin.
-Get the monkey pox vaccination.
We are already experiencing shortages in the monkeypox vaccine. the vaccine is only being given to at-risk individuals. The CDC has stated that if you received the smallpox vaccination as a child you should have 85% protection from monkeypox now. After I found this out, I immediately called my mother to see if I had received the vaccination (She has not gotten back to me but I will keep you updated!).
Some other ways to stay safe include limiting your contact with people. This is easy for me but it can be hard for more social butterflies and for those who enjoy being around other people or if you have to work with the public. This truly is the best way to avoid contracting the virus. It has also been suggested to wear gloves when applicable at work such as when handling cash or clothing. Be weary though that you are not cross-contaminating when wearing gloves. You can wear clothes to cover your body and limit potential accidental contact with others. Still, if you get super hot and sweaty or adjust your clothing a lot it is advised to go with what’s comfortable. If you are producing more fluids and adjusting more often you are defeating the purpose.
If you have any open cuts or sores be sure to keep them bandaged up and protected. This is a good rule of thumb when avoiding any viruses or infections. Also, be sure to wear a mask above your nose and mouth. We all see the people who are wearing their masks just covering their chin or just their nose. After years of Covid, you would think we could at least get proper mask wearing right. If you choose to go out and interact with people it is advised to do so in open and airy settings that allow plenty of ventilation but also limits close contact with others.
Treatment for Monkeypox
If you are not vaccinated with smallpox or two series monkeypox vaccination Jynneo’s there is currently no specific treatment approved for the monkeypox virus. There are antiviral medications that can be used to treat smallpox that can help patients with monkeypox. There are also “comfort measures” that can be taken to help ease symptoms. If you only have a few lesions it is advised to cover them until they have become scabbed. You will want to avoid contact with any animals or pets and be sure to quarantine and stay isolated until your infection period is up. Be sure to contact your healthcare provider if you are experiencing symptoms of monkeypox or you believe you were in contact with someone infected.
Further Resources for Monkeypox
If you need to get tested or are worried you might have contracted monkeypox please see the resources below.
Florida Department of Health In Broward and Miami-Dade are offering the monkeypox vaccine. However, it is only offered to at-risk individuals such as healthcare workers, someone who has been in close contact with someone positive for monkeypox and immunocompromised men with HIV, and gay men with a recent history of STIs. Click the links below to be taken directly to these websites.