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Ohio health leaders warn the cases of monkeypox are increasing

Monkeypox virus
FOTOGRIN
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Monkeypox virus

The Ohio Department of Health says cases of monkeypox are increasing rapidly in August, especially in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.

The jump in cases comes after Ohio reported its first case of monkeypox in June and few cases in July.

“As of Wednesday, we have reported 75 cases to the CDC. Most of Ohio’s cases are in our large metro areas with only a few cases reported in other jurisdictions," said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Ohio Department of Health director.

Vanderhoff said monkeypox cannot be spread easily like COVID-19. He said it is spread through intimate contact, usually between men who have had sex with men. He said the vaccine for monkeypox has been in short supply in Ohio.

“Until this week, the state had been sent 4,253 doses. Now this is a two-dose vaccine so this is enough a little more than 2,000 people. This is simply not enough supply to vaccinate all Ohioans," Vanderhoff said.

Vanderhoff said more than 13,000 doses are coming soon. And he said those will be dispersed to the people in urban, LGBTQ communities, the population most at-risk of developing monkeypox. Until this point, he said doses have been given to people who have been in close contact with someone who had a confirmed case of monkeypox.

Vanderhoff said monkeypox can cause itching or burning rashes. He said there are some medications that can be used to treat monkeypox once someone has contracted it. And for the most part, he said that medicine is being used on patients with underlying health conditions.

“Most people who get monkeypox get better without the need for medication. So far, according to CDC, about 8% of people who have contracted monkeypox in the United States have been hospitalized and thankfully, there have been no deaths," Vanderhoff said.

Vanderhoff said local health departments have information about monkeypox and are reaching out to people who might be at risk for it. And he said ODH is working on a dashboard for monkeypox, similar to the one it had for COVID-19. He said he hopes to have that up by the end of the month.

As for COVID-19, Vanderhoff said many parts of Ohio continues to have high infection rates. But he said the current variants are much less serious than previous ones and are more unlikely to causes hospitalizations or deaths. Still, he advised people who haven't received the initial COVID-19 vaccines and the subsequent booster shots to get them. He said new vaccines coming this fall are supposed to be better at combating the current variants but he advised Ohioans not to wait for them.

Vanderhoff also noted the COVID-19 guidance for K-12 schools in Ohio is changing. The "mask to stay" and "test to play" policies which allowed students exposed to COVID-19 to stay in classrooms and be on sports teams has been scrapped. Now, he's urging parents to be on the lookout for COVID-19 symptoms (congestion, cough, temperature, head and body aches) and test children who have them with at-home antigen tests before sending them to school. If a child tests positive, Vanderhoff said they should isolate at home for five days after testing before going back to school.

Lastly, Vanderhoff encouraged parents of children starting back to school to make sure their children have had all of the necessary vaccines. He said there is some evidence that there is a decrease in the percentage of children lacking vaccines for things like measles, mumps, and even polio. Without those vaccines, he said children are at risk of contracting dangerous illnesses that could be life threatening.