Health authority warns of uptick in cases of mpox, formerly known as monkeypox
People who suspect they have been infected with mpox should get tested, health care officials say. (Getty Images)
Last June, when COVID was still raging, Oregon health officials warned the public about the state’s first case of monkeypox, now known as mpox.
Cases continued to rise, peaking at 85 cases in August. By year’s end, health officials had tracked 270 cases, mostly among gay and bisexual men, though two Oregon children were also infected.
Health care providers administered thousands of doses of a vaccine and cases slowed, with only one case in December and four in January. But in recent months infections have been on the rise.
Jonathan Modie, a senior Oregon Health Authority spokesman, said the agency expected an increase following the festivals and parties in summer.
“Cases began to increase then, and we have seen a consistent trickling of cases each week since mid-July,” Modie said in an email.
nearly double the nine cases reported between Jan. 1 and July 20. That prompted the health authority this week to alert providers to look for cases and get patients with symptoms tested.
“We never declared the 2022 outbreak over because we were concerned about increases like the one we are seeing now,” Dr. Tim Menza, the health authority’s senior mpox adviser, said in a news release. “It gives us an opportunity to remind folks in the community that vaccination against mpox remains a valuable tool for reducing the risk of mpox infection.”
The disease mainly spreads through skin contact, and symptoms can emerge within a few days or weeks. The most common are flu-like – fever, chills, sweats, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and fatigue. Patients usually develop a rash that looks like pimples or blisters, perhaps first in the genital area and then on the hands, feet, chest, face or mouth. The scabs usually fall off within four weeks.
Most people recover at home without special treatment, though the blisters are often painful.
When the outbreak first emerged in the U.S., there was a shortage of the vaccine, Jynneos. But the health authority said the two-dose vaccine is now readily available – and free. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and Oregon health officials – say it’s safe and effective: A study published in May by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one dose of the vaccine prevented illness among 75% of people and that two doses protected 86%.
The health authority urges anyone at risk to get vaccinated. Modie said they include people who have been in intimate contact in the prior two weeks with someone who’s infected or anyone in close contact with them along with laboratory workers who test for the virus and providers who treat infected patients.
Anyone who suspects they have mpox should contact their primary care provider first to find out whether they should be tested before going in for a visit. If you don’t have a provider, call 211 for help.
Infections are not expected to go away, Modie said.
“The virus is now endemic to the United States and will continue to circulate among unvaccinated persons and those whose vaccine-based immunity has started to decline over time,” Modie said.
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