Monkeypox arrives in Minnesota: What you need to know

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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage onward. Many want to forget it, but it continues to linger. It will most likely be with us for many years to come, along with other illnesses. Viruses never truly go away, and neither does the possibility of another pandemic. This time the virus comes from Africa and leaves a very visible mark on those it infects. That virus is monkeypox.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported the first presumptive case of monkeypox on June 27. The weeks leading up to this announcement had newscasters from around the world announcing cases of monkeypox in their respective cities, countries, and states. One by one, a new case would pop up, and COVID-like anxiety would follow with each one.

What is monkeypox?

According to the World Health Organization, monkeypox is a viral zoonosis that typically spreads in Central and West Africa. Its symptoms resemble smallpox, with the infected breaking out in a blistery rash. Monkeys and various rodents can also carry the virus, making it highly transmissible. Symptoms can also include headache, fatigue, fever, and swelling of the lymph nodes. Symptoms usually last two to four weeks.

Monkeypox can spread through close contact with infected people. Contaminated objects like clothing and bed linens can easily spread the virus. Additionally, sexual contact seems to be an intense spreader of monkeypox. Anyone can catch monkeypox, which isn’t limited to any group.

Monkeypox leaves a blistery rash.

Infection prevention

Tri-County Health Care has its very own Infection Preventionist, Cheryl Houselog. Her job is monitoring viral outbreaks like monkeypox and developing comprehensive plans for keeping staff and patients safe. She and the staff at Tri-County Health Care have been keeping a close watch on the virus for several weeks now, anticipating that a Minnesota case would eventually make headlines.

“The lessons we have learned during the COVID pandemic have certainly taught us a lot about dealing with communicable diseases, evolving with rapidly changing situations, adapting to and developing new protocols, responding to the needs of the public, and more. We have learned a lot and will certainly be able to apply that knowledge to another potential pandemic.” – Cheryl Houselog, Infection Preventionist

In late May, she communicated with providers and medical staff about our area’s potential risk for infection. Everyone is on high alert, looking for the signs and symptoms associated with monkeypox. Furthermore, if you suspect you may have contracted monkeypox, Cheryl has some guidance for you:

  • Seek medical care immediately, especially if you have traveled abroad or had close contact with a wild animal.
  • Be upfront and honest with your medical provider. The virus has been politicized and stigmatized to a certain extent, but this shouldn’t stop you from getting the help you need.
  • Avoid close contact with others. Play it safe and avoid social gatherings and sexual activity.
  • If you must leave your home for treatment, please wear a mask.

Dealing with the problem

Vaccination efforts and informational campaigns are underway. Continue to check local and state news publications like the Minnesota Department of Health for updates on the progress of such campaigns. If you suspect you may have monkeypox, please contact a healthcare professional immediately. For scheduling at Tri-County Health Care, please call 218-631-3510.

Important resources

CDC-United States Infection map

CDC-Global Infection map

WHO-Monkeypox

CDC-5 things you need to know about monkeypox

CDC-Monkeypox Information


Lyme Disease Awareness Month: The great tick off!

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The vast Minnesota wilderness is one of the reasons so many choose this state as their home. Living in Minnesota is like being one with nature. You can find a bounty of natural beauty just a short distance from your home. From lakes to wildlife, Minnesota has everything that makes our world special. However, nature also includes ticks and the bacteria they may or may not be carrying. May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and Tri-County Health Care wants you to enjoy the outdoors safely this summer.

What is Lyme disease?

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by tick bites. Primarily, this disease is spread by blacklegged ticks, commonly referred to as deer or bear ticks.

In the spring and summer, ticks begin searching for their first blood meal, which usually consists of rodents. Ticks are commonly associated with forests, but they can easily find their way into residential neighborhoods on the backs of mice and even pets. Luckily a tick needs to be stuck to the skin for several hours to transmit disease. Diseases carried by ticks include:

  • Lyme disease
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Babesiosis
  • Ehrlichiosis
  • Powassan virus disease
  • Borrelia miyamotoi disease
  • Borrelia mayonii disease
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Tularemia

By far, Lyme disease is the most prevalent tick-borne disease. Experts are closely monitoring the spread of this disease and have noticed its frequency steadily increasing.

This video by Minnesota Lyme Disease Association puts the issue of Lyme Disease in Minnesota into perspective.

 

Lyme Disease Awareness Month is about learning the causes.

Symptoms and treatment

Symptoms usually appear within 30 days of the initial bite. One of the most common symptoms is a rash at the site of the bite. Sometimes it may appear to be a bulls-eye with a raised red sore in the middle and a circular patch of red skin around it. People may also experience chills, muscle pain, headaches, and fatigue.

If these symptoms appear, seek medical attention immediately. The chances of treating Lyme disease are better with early detection. After thorough examination and testing, treatment for Lyme disease includes antibiotics.

Prevention

The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid ticks. Wear appropriate clothing that covers your body when exploring the outdoors. Also, make sure to use insect repellent. Additionally, when you return home, do a tick inspection. For example, use a mirror to examine your body for the tiny pests. If you discover one, remove it with tweezers. Submerging ticks in alcohol is a way to kill them.

Throughout Lyme Disease Awareness Month, Tri-County Health Care aims to make this summer safe for everyone. If you suspect you might have Lyme disease, please meet with your care provider as soon as possible. For scheduling, please call 218-631-3510.