AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — As monkeypox spreads across the U.S., local infectious disease specialists say there is cause for concern.
As of Thursday, August 11, the CDC reported 10,768 total confirmed monkeypox cases, including 815 in Texas.
“We have to be concerned about the spread,” said Dr. Tarek Naguib, a professor and the Regional Chair of Medicine at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. “The spread of this disease is a contact spread. It’s not like the COVID where you could just sneeze from 20 feet away, and it reaches me in one second. No, this is going to be a contact means somebody has to have contact to somebody, skin-to-skin.”
Dr. Naguib said while monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, it can still spread through intimate contact.
“Bottom line, you can’t examine every person who you’re meeting, but you need to avoid skin-to-skin contact with somebody who has a rash, even handshakes with somebody who has a rash, you can transmit the virus to the hand that is not infected,” he said.
Dr. Steven Berk, the Dean of the TTUHSC School of Medicine, said right now, monkeypox is spreading mostly in men who have sex with other men.
“But there’s no reason that it will stay that way because it causes a rash,” said Dr. Berk. “And anyone who gets close to someone with that rash, touches the rash, or is intimately exposed to someone with that rash is likely to get the rash as well.”
According to Dr. Berk, it usually starts with flu-like symptoms.
Click here to see monkeypox signs and symptoms from the CDC.
“So there is fever, chills, lymph nodes, all the all the kinds of things you get with other viral infections,” said Dr. Berk. “But then, after a couple of days, you get this rash and I think it does look different than what most people are used to with rashes. And so that would be the clue.”
Dr. Naguib said pustules or pus-filled blisters on the skin would also suggest monkeypox.
He also said because the Panhandle region is more isolated, people here are usually the last to get infections from national and international sources.
“Likely we’re going to see cases in the Panhandle,” said Dr. Naguib. “This is going to be an environment that allows for seeing a few cases, maybe.”
Dr. Berk said while he is an experienced infectious disease physician, he has not taken care of any monkeypox patients.
He said the mortality rate is very low, around 1%, but the blisters can be extremely painful.
“If you don’t feel well, and you have some kind of skin lesion, again, you go to your physician, and it might take a little bit of time, but get a test,” said Dr. Berk. “It’s a PCR test. It’s an easy blood test to do.”
There are vaccines available. Click here to learn more from the CDC.