INDIANAPOLIS — As monkeypox cases rise across the U.S., the nation is now under a public health emergency.
President Biden made the declaration on Thursday.
CDC numbers show more than 6,600 cases reported across the country. As of August 3rd, 62 were reported in Indiana.
“While monkeypox is concerning, it is not on the level of COVID,” said Kristen Kelley, director of quality safety and infection prevention at IU Health.
At IU Health, Kelley said they have treated a decent amount of cases, but not to the extent of COVID, which they are seeing more of.
Kelley said the virus is a different scenario as it’s mostly spread through direct contact.
“It can spread in multiple ways,” Kelley said, “So direct contact with a monkeypox rash, scabs or bodily fluid from a person that already has monkeypox. It can also spread from touching objects, such as fabrics, like clothing, bedding or towels and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox””
According to the Indiana Department of Health’s website, pregnant people can also spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta. It’s also possible to get the virus from infected animals through scratches, bites or preparing or eating a meal with products from the infected animal.
Experts said it’s also important to note that monkeypox can happen to anyone and is not isolated to a specific group.
“Unless you have that close personal contact, the risk of disease transmission is low,” said Thomas Duszynski, director of epidemiology education at the Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI.
While Indiana’s case numbers are relatively low, Duszynski believes a declaration is possible if numbers increase.
“In the event of a public health emergency in the state, it really is about the logistics of moving vaccine across state lines and increasing testing capabilities, increasing vaccination distribution capabilities and logistical support that goes along with all of that,” he said.
Duszynski said it’s possible there are more cases that haven’t been reported as people may not know they’ve been exposed or are reluctant to get tested or treated due to stigmatization.
Experts said it’s important people aren’t fearful, but willing to educate themselves on the virus to help mitigate the spread.
“Hospitals are doing their job, along with the state health department, to make sure that funding comes in for treatment, hospitals are prepared to see patients that have this illness and that the public just understands signs to recognize it,” said Kelley. “It is not to instill fear or think this is the next COVID per se.”
“I think it’s really important for people to arm themselves with a little bit of knowledge,” Duszynski said, “Those measures, like good handwashing, are really important. If you have an unexplained rash, contact your health care provider and participate in public health efforts to minimize this, like contact tracing.”
If you believe you were exposed to monkeypox, it’s recommended to contact your health provider for a test. If you don’t have a provider, the Indiana Department of Health recommends going to an urgent care or emergency department.
The state health department lists initial symptoms of monkeypox, which occur within 7-14 days of exposure, include a fever, muscle aches and backaches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. A rash, that resembles pimples or blisters, can also appear on parts of the body about 1-3 days after.