Health officials urge education, awareness as Kansas keeps monkeypox at bay

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – With monkeypox declared a public health emergency, people around Kansas may be wondering how worried they should be.

of Kansas Department of Health and Environment reports only two cases in the state: one in Johnson Co. in mid-July and the other in Shawnee Co. this week.

Dr. Kavitha Rao, an infectious disease specialist with Stormont Vail Health in Topeka, says the continued increase in cases of monkeypox in the U.S. since May 2022 — a virus that has been very rare in this country — has led officials to public health to monitor carefully.

“Monkeypox is mild and usually self-limiting. Very rarely it can cause serious illness, so that’s the good thing about it,” said Dr. Rao.

Symptoms of monkey pox usually appear 7 to 14 days after exposure. It starts with typical symptoms associated with a viral illness, such as fever, headache or sore throat. A few days later, a skin rash appears.

“This rash can evolve through different stages, then finally it crusts and crusts, and when the lesions are all crusted over, you’re considered cured,” said Dr. Rao.

While Kansas has only had two occasions, the USA has come out on top more than 10,000 cases in total by Thursday. The CDC map showed three cases in Kansas, but KDHE has only reported two.

While much has been made of the high number of cases among gay men, health officials point out that anyone can get it. Monkeypox is primarily transmitted through skin-to-skin contact or exposure to contaminated clothing or bedding, but can also be spread through prolonged close exposure to respiratory droplets.

The public health emergency allows the US to free up resources for prevention and vaccination efforts, but Dr. Rao says people need not panic. Unlike the health emergency COVID, monkeypox is not a new virus and testing and vaccines are already available.

“I would educate the public to recognize the signs and symptoms of this infection,” said Dr. Rao. “If you have symptoms of a viral illness along with a rash, you should be concerned and I would recommend if it’s mild, stay at home and isolate.”

Supplies of the vaccine are limited, so it is reserved for high-risk patients with exposure to a confirmed case. In the Shawnee Co. situation, health officials are reaching out to those who qualify.

Dr. Rao says the vaccine is effective within four days of exposure.

Copyright 2022 WIBW. All rights reserved.

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