The state Division of Public Health is ramping up efforts to educate Delaware residents about monkeypox, or MPX, after two more people tested positive for the rare disease.
While public health officials stress that the risk of contracting monkeypox is still low in Delaware, these two recent cases mean monkeypox has infected someone in each county.
Two people, a 46-year-old Sussex County man and a 25-year-old Kent County man, recently tested positive in DPH test results. Both cases are considered probable until confirmatory testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DPH said in a news release.
Neither patient reported any travel. The state public health division said it is working to contact the Sussex County patient to inform them about treatment options and ask about possible contacts. The Kent County patient has already been advised to self-isolate until lesions fall off and new skin appears, according to DPH.
Monkeypox is transmitted through “close intimate contact” with individuals who have rashes or flu-like symptoms, said Dr. Rick Hong, DPH interim director.
“We urge people to educate themselves about this rare disease, including how it is spread, and to help prevent exposure,” Hong said in the news release. “DPH will continue to work with medical providers to screen and identify individuals for MPX testing.”
Hong said the state will prioritize its limited supply of vaccines for people who have been exposed to MPX.
For anyone who has specific concerns about symptoms or possible exposure, DPH has started a hotline that people can call: 866-408-1899. This number will be available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
People can also visit https://dhss.delaware.gov/dph/epi/emerginginfectiousdiseases.html.
What is monkeypox and who is at risk?
Until this spring, MPX cases were rare in the United States. Now, there are more than 2,500 cases nationwide, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The virus is not sexually transmitted but instead can spread through close intimate contact when the virus enters the body through even the smallest of broken skin, the respiratory tract, or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth.
The virus is related to the one that causes smallpox, and it causes similar but milder symptoms, according to the CDC.
While the overall risk of MPX remains low, DPH said the following people are at higher risk:
- People who have been identified as a contact of someone with MPX
- People who are aware that one of their sexual partners in the past two weeks was diagnosed with MPX
- People who had multiple sexual partners in the past two weeks in an area with known MPX
What are the signs and symptoms?
Symptoms usually start within three weeks of exposure to the virus.
Most people who contract MPX will develop a rash, and some will develop flu-like symptoms beforehand. The flu-like symptoms may include fever, headache, muscle aches and backache, sore throat, cough, swollen lymph nodes, chills or exhaustion.
If someone has flu-like symptoms, they will usually develop a rash one to four days later.
If you suspect you are experiencing any symptoms associated with MPX, DPH advises people to immediately:
- Contact their health care provider and mention their concerns.
- Self-isolate until all lesions have resolved, the scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed.
- Avoid being intimate with others.
- Make a list of their close and intimate contacts in the last 21 days.
Is there a treatment for MPX?
There is no specific treatment for the monkeypox virus infection right now, DPH said, but antivirals can be prescribed.
The state has received a limited supply of the vaccine, which needs to be given in two doses 28 days apart.
How to prevent MPX infection
Delaware public health officials have the following recommendations to avoid infection:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like MPX.
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with MPX.
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with MPX.
- Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with MPX.
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with MPX.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Emily Lytle covers Sussex County from the inland towns to the beaches, with a focus on health-related issues. Got a story she should tell? Contact her at email@example.com or 302-332-0370. Follow her on Twitter at @emily3lytle.