An image of monkeypox virus particles collected from a sample linked with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak. (Photo courtesy of Cynthia S. Goldsmith and Russell Regnery via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Genesee County, MI—As the number of monkeypox cases rises in the U.S., including in Michigan, Genesee County has been carrying out measures to prevent its spread across communities. 

While no cases of monkeypox have been identified in Genesee County, 15 out 83 counties in Michigan have logged a total of 90 confirmed and probable cases as of Aug. 11, 2022, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

Kimberly VanSlyke-Smith, Genesee County Health Department’s (GCHD) director of nursing services, said GCHD is one of eight hubs in Michigan for Jynneos vaccine allocation. GCDH has received 820 doses of Jynneos vaccines for preventing monkeypox, and roughly 400 of the vaccines have been redistributed to other counties. In Genesee County, the vaccines are currently administered by GCHD. 

Following official guidelines on vaccine rollout, Genesee County is primarily in the expanded post-exposure prophylaxis phase, which is the second phase of vaccination. Phase 1 — the post-exposure prophylaxis phase — includes people who have confirmed contact with those who tested positive for monkeypox. The second phase aims to vaccinate those who are at high risk of possible contact with someone who has monkeypox. 

Below are those who qualify for the second phase of vaccination: 

– Individuals engaged in any type of sex work.

– Partners of individuals who engage in higher-risk sexual activities.

– Close or household contacts of individuals who have been exposed to monkeypox or engaged in higher-risk activities.

– Men who have sex with men and have a history of sexually transmitted disease in the last year.

– Individuals who plan to have multiple sex partners.

– Individuals who plan to have close contact at a high-risk event or high-risk venue.

– Individuals taking the medication pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention or those living with HIV.

According to Dr. Kaitlin Liroff, an infectious disease physician at Hurley Medical Center, monkeypox typically spreads via direct and sustained contact with an infected individual. Currently, monkeypox has been primarily reported among males who have sex with males. But Liroff emphasized that monkeypox “is something that anybody can get with the right type of exposure.”

The virus can be transmitted from contact with monkeypox skin lesions, scabs and body fluids from an infected person, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states. Intimate contact including sex, kissing and hugging are all ways that monkeypox can spread. It also can be transmitted via materials and surfaces used by an infected person. The virus can spread to the fetus via the placenta during pregnancy as well.

Danielle Lederer, GCHD’s chief epidemiologist, urged people exposed to monkeypox or at high risk of exposure to get vaccinated. Other ways to reduce risk involve avoiding skin-to-skin contact with an infected individual or any materials exposed to someone with monkeypox, she added. 

With respect to sexual health, VanSlyke-Smith advised reducing the number of sexual partners and to understand their sexual history. 

Liroff also recommended asking sexual partners if they have any monkeypox symptoms. The CDC advises anyone with monkeypox symptoms to avoid sex and to isolate at home, among other ways to prevent transmission.

As researchers gain more knowledge about the current monkeypox outbreak, Liroff urged the public to remain calm, and experts note that monkeypox is much less transmissible than COVID-19 and the flu.  

“The transmission generally occurs over close contact, more intimate contact [and] over a more prolonged period of time,” Liroff said of monkeypox. “People can rest assured that the transmission is different than COVID, which can be transmitted in an aerosolized way.”

“The risk of someone who’s just standing in the presence of someone with monkeypox is very, very low,” she added, “and it’s not a way that we would consider it commonly transmitted.”

When it comes to mortality, 12 confirmed deaths worldwide have been reported in the current monkeypox outbreak as of Aug. 12, 2022, none of which occurred in the U.S., and 31,799 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed globally, according to the CDC.

Experts say people who have been exposed to monkeypox should consult with their physicians or public health department. Individuals can check with their medical providers for testing availability. Meanwhile, tests are currently available at GCHD.

For more information about monkeypox, visit the websites of GCHD and CDC.

Nicholas is Flint Beat’s public health and education reporter. He joins the team as he graduates from Santa Clara University, Calif. Nicholas has previously reported on dementia and brain health, as...

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