BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama’s first two cases of monkeypox has been identified in both Jefferson and Mobile counties, the Alabama Department of Public Health confirmed Friday.
According to ADPH, test results from the Mobile case came back Thursday. The patient was reportedly tested by the ADPH Bureau of Clinical Laboratories, which is part of the Laboratory Response Network that responds to public health emergencies.
As of Friday, approximately 1,470 cases of monkeypox have been identified across 44 states, with more to be expected.
The disease does not spread easily from person to person, but from skin-to-skin contact. It is also possible to contract it from contact with materials from an infected person such as clothing.
The virus typically enters the body through broken skin, respiratory droplets, or mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose, or mouth. Some people who have been infected have been men who have sex with men, but anyone can be infected if they are exposed to skin contact from an infected person. However, medical experts are saying to remain calm.
“I’m not overly concerned at this point,” UAB Infectious Diseases Dr. Michael Saag said. “The good news is there is a treatment that is available.”
Saag said monkeypox is related to smallpox, so a vaccine does exist for those who need it.
“We’ve got the tools at our disposal to do what we need to do to manage it,” Saag said, “It’s just a question of being vigilant.”
Symptoms can start as a rash with flat spots, followed by raised spots then deep vesicles that may be itchy or painful. Some people who contract monkeypox may only have the rash and not develop other symptoms such as fever, flu-like illness, headache, muscle aches, or fatigue.
According to officials, a patient is considered contagious until skin lesions created by the rash crust over, fall off and new skin is formed. Those exposed are considered low, medium and high risk depending on their level of exposure and symptoms.
“That classification helps us determine if a person should receive a post-exposure prophylaxis vaccine, meaning you get the vaccine after you’ve been exposed to the virus versus just monitoring because it really depends how intense of an exposure a person had,” Dr. Wesley Willeford said from the Jefferson County Department of Health.
“It’s really those lesions that are high risk for causing that spread. Certainly, if you are in contact with that person for a long period of time, that’s really when that spread occurs.”
Health experts say the time between exposure and first symptoms is about 7-14 days, but can take as long as 21 days.
Steps to help prevent monkeypox include the following:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with a person who has monkeypox.
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, clothing, or towels of a person who has monkeypox.
- Have persons with monkeypox isolate away from others.
- Wash hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after contact with ill people who have monkeypox.
- Avoid contact with animals that could have the virus (such as animals that are sick or that have been found dead).
An effective vaccine against monkeypox exists, but there is currently no recommendation for vaccination for those with no known exposure to confirmed cases. Testing for monkeypox can be done at the ADPH BCL and some commercial laboratories.
For more information about monkeypox, visit the ADPH’s monkeypox webpage or the CDC’s monkeypox webpage.