Cleveland Infectious Disease Specialist: Monkeypox outbreak is ‘bigger’ than expected

Published: Aug. 7, 2022 at 6:46 PM EDT

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - 19 News learned Sunday the Lake County General Health District has had two reported cases of monkeypox.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are now more than 7,500 confirmed cases of monkeypox across the country and 45 cases in Ohio.

Dr. Amy Edwards, University Hospitals Infectious Disease Specialist, said the virus is spreading faster than expected.

“I think most of us in the healthcare field are a little bit surprised that the outbreak has grown as much as it has,” explained Dr. Edwards. “We would’ve expected that given that we have treatments and a vaccine I think most of us expected it to be under control by now. I am a little bit concerned this outbreak has gotten bigger than I expected it to get.”

Dr. Edwards said the good news is the virus is less contagious than COVID, but anyone who has any kind of close contact with others is at risk.

That includes hugging, kissing, or even just holding or shaking hands.

“If you touch the skin, especially on or near a pox of somebody who’s infected that is what we’re talking about,” Edwards said. “Those fluid-filled bumps on your skin virus is just pouring out of that and so when you hug somebody when you touch their arm when you shake hands if they happen to have pustules on their hands any kind of close contact is gonna pass it if the person is infected or symptomatic.”

The Cleveland Department of Public Health said there are at least 11 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the city, and Lorain County health officials announced a confirmed case Friday.

Dr. Edwards said they are already seeing cases come in for treatment at UH.

“What we are learning is that some people can have very minor symptoms and very minor rashes, so they might only have a few poxes, the fluid-filled bumps on their skin. I think people were expecting it would be obvious, you’d be covered with a bunch of pox like chicken pox, and it turns out for some people that’s not the case,” Edwards said.

While the virus can spread through sexual contact, Dr. Edwards said it is not an STD.

The virus has been spreading rapidly among the LGBT community, Dr. Edwards said that is just where the outbreak is currently concentrated.

“There’s nothing about being gay or anything that makes you fundamentally at increased risk, but because so many people who are LGBTQ have it and they tend to hang out, it’s staying in that population,” said Dr. Edwards.

It’s the largest monkeypox outbreak ever documented, so Dr. Edwards said while it is concerning, it’s not time to panic.

The number one symptom of monkeypox is a rash that eventually develops into fluid-filled bumps under your skin.

They are typically skin-colored, but they can also be red and are usually painful.

If you have any kind of symptoms like this, Dr. Edwards urges you to stay home and away from others until the rash is completely gone.

“We are now recently learning that you can have very mild symptoms and still spread the virus. That was something we weren’t really super aware of, because again this wasn’t a virus that we had a lot of information about. It turns out in men who have sex with men that it can be just one or two poxes like right around the rectum or even inside, so the person who has it might not even be aware,” Dr. Edwards said.

Like with most viruses, the majority of the population will recover on their own, but health officials are working on making more vaccines available to the public.

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