City of Dubuque Public Health Director Provides Facts on Monkeypox
Just when we thought we, as the public, were in the clear from unusual infectious diseases for a little bit having emerged from COVID-19 lockdowns, another virus is garnering headlines. Monkeypox, a viral disease found in humans and some animals, has now been declared a "public health emergency" by the Biden Administration. As of this writing, there are now more than 7,500 cases in the US.
When I don't have all (or any) answers, I lean on professionals. I was privileged to spend a few minutes on the phone with Mary Rose Corrigan, Public Health Director for the City of Dubuque Health Department. She provided some clarity on the symptoms of monkeypox, the current state of the outbreak in Iowa, and the steps that are being taken by our community's health department.
Monkeypox isn't a novel disease. It's been around for many years, although its resurgence in the US and Europe is what's propelled it into the mainstream. Corrigan elaborated in our interview:
We had some cases in the US back in 2003. But it's primarily in countries in the Tropics, where it's more common and happens on a regular basis. When it gets into countries such as the US, Europe, and [starts] spreading around the world right now, it's not part of the normal course of this disease.
A member of the "pox" family of viruses, monkeypox is transmitted primarily from skin-to-skin contact. Its appearance can resemble chickenpox.
One major complication with this virus is that people might be asymptomatic for a long stretch of time, even after having been infected. The sliver of good news that comes with that, however, is that if you're not contagious, you're not infected, according to Corrigan:
When you're first infected for a week or two, you may not even have any symptoms. You're not contagious during that time. But then you [might] start to have a fever, malaise, [a] headache, sort throat, and maybe some swollen lymph nodes. The issue with those symptoms is they're symptoms of a lot of different illnesses.
A rash might come with monkeypox. The lesions themselves can look different, but generally speaking, they are round and fluid-filled. Overtime, they will form a scab and crust-over with normal skin. These lesions, coupled with the swollen lymph nodes, can be very painful upon forming.
Corrigan stated that, at this time, there are only 13 diagnosed cases of monkeypox in the state of Iowa. Cases in Illinois have surged by comparison, totaling over 700 as of this week.
Also on the good news front: there is a monkeypox vaccine, available to qualifying individuals.
Corrigan commented on the vaccine:
Right now, the [monkeypox] vaccine is in limited supply [....] It's only being given to close-contacts of confirmed cases of monkeypox. For instance, if someone has monkeypox, a public health worker will contact them and talk to them about their close-contacts [....] Those people who have had that close contact [with an infected individual] would be offered the vaccine.
The City of Dubuque Health Department is taking significant steps to combat this outbreak. Corrigan concluded our discussion by touching on the department's "three-pronged approach:"
We have myself, who does a lot of public education [....] Our local Visiting Nurses Association is our public vaccine provider, so if you are in contact with a case of monkeypox, you would work through the VNA to get a vaccination. And then our county health department is the main source [of] information [and help] direct our local response.
Additional information about monkeypox (specifically on the Iowa-front) can be found on the Iowa Department of Public Health's website.