Monkeypox, a type of Orthopoxvirus, is currently on the rise in Miami and across Florida. The state saw its first case of Monkeypox back in May, and since then the spread of virus has been declared a global health emergency by WHO (the World Health Organization), as well as a public health emergency on national, and local levels.
Florida currently has over 500 confirmed infections, with more than half in the tri-county area. In terms of national data, there have been more than 6,300 reported cases across 48 states so far. New York, California and Illinois have declared states of emergency to help fight the outbreak. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he would not.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is part of the same family of viruses as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal. However, it can be painful and will last from two to four weeks.
Who can get monkeypox?
Anyone can get or spread monkeypox. Though as of now the virus is mostly spreading in communities of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM), it is important to remember that anyone is susceptible.
How does monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox spreads from person to person in several ways. These include:
- Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
- Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
- Touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
- Pregnant mothers can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta
Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed.
What should I look out for symptom-wise?
Typical symptoms include a rash or sores that can resemble pimples or blisters. They can occur all over your body, or be concentrated on certain parts like the face, hands or feet. They are very itchy and painful, and can also be accompanied by flu symptoms like sore throat, fever, swollen lymph nodes, headache and tiredness. Symptoms normally begin within two weeks of exposure to the virus.
What should I do if I am experiencing symptoms?
If health care providers suspect a possible case of monkeypox, immediately contact your county health department or the 24/7 disease reporting hotline at 850-245-4401. Local county health departments can help providers obtain monkeypox virus-specific real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. While you are awaiting test results, you should self-isolate.
How do I get a vaccine for monkeypox?
As of now — though the requirements may change as supplies increase — you must meet all of the following conditions to be vaccinated for monkeypox, according to Florida’s Department of Health:
- Laboratory personnel and select health care personnel at high risk for monkeypox
- Close contact with monkeypox cases
- Immunocompromised MSM (men who have sex with men) with HIV
- Other MSM with a recent history of a sexually transmissible diseases (STD)
The Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade offers the JYNNEOS vaccine, which requires two doses, the second dose 28 days later. You can book an appointment online to get a free vaccination at the Health District Center, 1350 NW 14th St.
The Florida Department of Health in Broward also offers JYNNEOS. You can book an appointment online to get a free vaccination.
Health officials are asking residents to schedule only one appointment. Clinic staff will schedule follow-up appointments for the second dose.
Can I do anything to help prevent getting it?
According to the CDC, here are some monkeypox prevention measure you can take:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox
- Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used (sharing eating utensils or cups, handling bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox)
- Practice safe sex (see the full list of ways to do so here), and avoid having sex if you or your partner has a new unexplained rash or has been feeling sick.
- Limiting your number of sex partners may reduce the possibility of exposure. (Having multiple or anonymous sex partners may increase your chances of exposure to monkeypox.)
- To lower your chances of getting monkeypox, consider how much skin-to-skin contact will occur at the event you plan to attend. Lower risk activities include festivals, events & concerts where attendees are fully clothed and unlikely to share skin-to-skin contact
Where can I find more information?
You can find more detailed info and communication about monkeypox on Florida Dept. of Public Health’s website and the CDC.