CINCINNATI — Monkeypox is in Cincinnati. The city's health department confirmed two reported cases of the disease, which has been identified in nearly every state in the country.
Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Cincinnati and UC Health, said monkeypox has had limited outbreaks for decades, but now it’s spreading across the world.
Fichtenbaum said it spreads by having close contact with someone. He noted it needs to be sufficient contact, such as eating a meal or spending hours with someone.
“It’s a virus that causes a sort of mild flu-like illness and you get spots on your skin, blisters, pustules,” he said. “Most people do get a rash and it can start out like a little red bump and then almost look like white head where it gets a little cover on it and you can almost see some puss underneath it. Sometimes it can look like a blister and sometimes it comes up in a variety of different shapes and sizes and forms.”
He said the rash is why some doctors are having trouble identifying monkeypox.
“The rash doesn’t have to look uniform in some way and it can come in various different places of the body, it doesn’t have to be all over," Fichtenbaum said. "It can be in just one place and I think that’s fooled some of the doctors who have been looking at people."
The Cincinnati Health Department reports there are two cases of Monkeypox in Cincinnati. I spoke with an infectious disease specialist about the symptoms and why some of them are confusing doctors. @WCPO— Jessica Hart WCPO (@JessicaHartTV) July 27, 2022
Fichtenbaum believes the World Health Organization declared monkeypox aglobal health emergency to help contain it.
“When you list an emergency, what that does is send an alert to countries to enlist the support of their public health system to try and contain the spread of the disease,” Fichtenbaum said.
Fichtenbaum said there are likely more cases of monkeypox than what is reported in the U.S. due to a lack of testing and vaccine availability.
“Testing is pretty limited and that’s one of the big problems right now,” Fichtenbaum said. “They are probably people who have very atypical cases and so they’re not even being tested.”
Kimberly Wright, the supervising epidemiologist with the Cincinnati Health Department, said they’ve seen an uptick in calls from physicians requesting vaccines.
“We’re getting a lot of requests directly from providers who are requesting vaccines because they are patients who are coming to their practices saying they were exposed to monkeypox or a person with monkeypox and they are requesting the vaccine from us so we’re getting more calls,” Wright said.
Fichtenbaum said there are certain high-risk groups such as gay and bisexual men, but that doesn't mean monkeypox will not impact other people.
“Anybody can get it if you come into close contact with someone else who has it — particularly skin-to-skin contact, it doesn’t matter who you are,” he said.
Still, the risk is low for the majority of the population.
“For most people who live in Cincinnati, they’re probably not going to come in contact with monkeypox, so I don’t think it's the time for anyone to push the panic button,” Fichtenbaum said.
Fichtenbaum said anyone who thinks they might have monkeypox or are a close contact with someone who had monkeypox should call their doctor.
He noted there is a treatment called TPOXX that is available. It’s a medication that Fichtenbaum said has limited side effects and is one most people can tolerate. However, it isn’t available over-the-counter and is being prioritized for high-risk individuals because the supply is limited.