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.
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.