Monkeypox has been declared a national public health emergency Here’s what Alaskans need to know By Alaska Department of Health
Monkeypox is not a new disease; it was first discovered in 1958 in captive monkeys, with the first human case recorded in 1970. Most cases historically have occurred in central and western Africa.
While the risk to most Alaskans remains low, monkeypox is spreading to places where the virus was not commonly seen, like the United States and Europe. The U.S. government recently declared monkeypox a public health emergency to help provide additional resources to fight the spread of the disease. As of Aug. 22, more than 15,433cases have been detected in the U.S., including three cases in Alaska. Worldwide, there have been more than 42,954 confirmed cases of monkeypox.
With this current outbreak, most cases so far have been reported in gay, bisexual, and transgender people who have sex with men. Outreach and prevention efforts have been particularly focused on people at higher risk for exposure, but because anyone can get monkeypox, it is important for everyone to know about the disease and how to prevent it.
How does monkeypox spread? Most infections are from prolonged skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a monkeypox rash. Transmission is possible through: • Direct contact with a monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox. • Exposure to respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact. • Less commonly through contact with items that were used by someone with monkeypox, such as bedding, clothing, toothbrushes, cups, or utensils.
How can I protect myself from monkeypox? • Avoid prolonged skin-to-skin or face-to-face contact with someone who has a monkeypox rash or recently had close contact with someone with monkeypox (i.e., having sex, kissing, hugging, snuggling, touching an infected person’s skin.) • Don’t touch or share items used by someone with monkeypox. • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. • Limit your number of sexual partners to reduce your likelihood of exposure.
What are the symptoms and is it serious? Monkeypox symptoms typically start with fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, and exhaustion within 1 to 2 weeks of exposure. Most people with monkeypox will get an itchy and painful rash that resembles pimples or blisters soon after these initial symptoms. Sometimes, symptoms begin with a rash. People infected with monkeypox are typically sick (and infectious) for 2-4 weeks.
While death from monkeypox is rare, symptoms can be painful. The disease can be more serious for people with weakened immune systems, children under 8 years of age, people with a history of eczema, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
People who think they have symptoms of monkeypox or have had close personal contact with a monkeypox case should visit a health care provider to help them decide if they need to be tested for monkeypox. If you do not have a health care provider, call your local Public Health Center or the Division of Public Health helpline at 907-646-3322. Anchorage residents can call the Anchorage Health Department at 907-343-6718 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The good news is that vaccine to prevent monkeypox is available. To learn more about current vaccine availability and eligibility in Alaska, please visit the Alaska Department of Health monkeypox webpage. In Anchorage, you can call 907-343-6718 or email email@example.com to speak to a nurse and discuss your vaccination options. For more information, please visit the Alaska Department of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webpages on monkeypox.
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