Alaska has yet to confirm a case of monkeypox, but state health officials are preparing a response to the disease.
“We’re expecting our first case any day now,” Alaska state epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US has over 3,000 confirmed cases in 45 states so far. The World Health Organization declared it a global health emergency on Saturday.
McLaughlin said so far nine Alaskans have been tested for monkeypox and all have been negative. Seven have been vaccinated. He said the state currently has enough vaccine doses for only 50 people and only five courses of antiviral treatment.
“Nationally there is only a very limited supply of vaccines,” he said.
Vaccines are distributed to states based on their population and the number of infections they have recorded.
McLaughlin said the federal government is expected to send more vaccine doses to Alaska soon. Plus, once the state sees its first case, additional vaccinations and treatment courses are expected to come fairly quickly, he said. The state will use its existing vaccine distribution network to get doses to rural areas as needed.
The state is also educating public health nurses and other health care providers on how to identify, test and treat cases of monkeypox, McLaughlin said.
“This is really a disease that health care providers in the United States generally have never seen before, unless they’ve worked in West Africa or Central Africa where monkeypox is circulating,” he said.
Monkeypox is a viral disease that is most often transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. It produces fever, pain, and fatigue, plus sometimes a rash that resembles pus-filled blisters. of CDC reports The type of monkeypox identified in this outbreak is rarely fatal, with over 99% of infected people likely to survive.
Currently, vaccines are being given priority for people with a known exposure to someone who has tested positive for monkeypox. People who have had or may have high-risk exposures—for example, having multiple sexual partners, especially among men who have sex with men—in areas where monkeypox circulates are next on the priority list for vaccination , McLaughlin said.
If you have symptoms or a known exposure to monkeypox, McLaughlin said it’s important to contact a health care provider immediately and isolate yourself from others. It is also urging health care providers to test freely, even in cases where they think monkeypox is unlikely.