WA health officials stress prevention amid rise of monkeypox cases
Cases of monkeypox are doubling in Washington state every 8 to 10 days. KUOW’s Paige Browning has been following the outbreak. She spoke with Kim Malcolm about the latest developments.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Kim Malcolm: Today, the federal government declared a public health emergency over the monkeypox virus. What does that mean for Washington?
Paige Browning: It means the feds could make more money and vaccines available for states. But Washington state has not declared its own public health emergency over monkeypox. If they did, we could see a much more robust prevention campaign. But state officials don't think we're at that point.
And could we get to that point where a state emergency is declared?
That's very possible. The state secretary of health, Dr. Umair Shah, told me today this is his criteria: “If we feel that, one, there is some significant evolution in the transmission, if we started to get an incredible increase, or we're concerned that we can't handle what's happening.”
So, at this point, what is the status of the virus in our state?
It's a virus that's gaining speed, and the state has a team dedicated to trying to control it. As of now, 166 monkeypox cases have been confirmed with the vast majority of those in King County. And if cases keep doubling every eight or so days, we'll reach 400 cases by mid-month easily. Anyone can get this virus. That's something public health officials are trying to make very clear. So far, it has spread mostly within the gay and broader LGBTQ community. It is rarely fatal, but the symptoms can be very painful. And a quick note on the vaccine – more than 6,800 doses have been given in Washington so far.
And is that enough? How many more vaccines does Washington have at this point?
It's not enough. Washington is almost out of its stock. It's holding some back for counties that haven't yet had cases. But Washington has been authorized to get 17,000 more doses. We’re ordering the first of that allotment in the next week.
For those of us who are at risk, what are officials advising us to do at this point?
Some people have already bolted over to Canada to get inoculated against MPV. Others are waiting for a dose here. But Secretary Shah says he encourages people to remain local and patient as we get more doses. Right now, the important thing they're stressing is if you have a rash, or symptoms, or lesions, cover up that rash, and avoid contact with anyone until you're clear of the virus. They're really stressing prevention.
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