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Arkansas health officials are preparing for monkeypox



Little Rock, Arkansas – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of June 9th at 2p.m, the United States had a total of 45 confirmed cases of the disease.

Monkeypox has been around Central and West Africa for a long time, Amanda Novack, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Baptist Health Medical Center said.

“It was first discovered 50 years ago in monkey which is why it’s called monkeypox and then it was found to occasionally cause cases in humans,” Novack said. “Usually it’s a disease of animals so it can happen in monkeys so it also happens in rodents and other small mammals.”

According to Novack, what is ‘unusual’ is that the once sporadic cases of monkeypox are all over the world at once. “Normally there would be just a handful of cases with travel-related travel cases every year and suddenly we are seeing in multiple different countries, multiple different states across our country all in much much higher quantities than we have seen before,” Novack said.

The virus can be unsightly and cause a pimple or ulcer-like pox on hands and sometimes face, Novack said. “It also has fever and chills and feeling bad, feeling achy,” Novack said.

According to Jennifer Dillaha, M.D. and Director at Arkansas Department of Health, monkeypox is spread through close skin-to-skin contact. “The virus is transferred by close skin to skin contact, often, and so if a person has close skin to skin contact with someone who is infected,” Dillaha said. “Right now it has been reported among the with men who have sex with men network, [but] that doesn’t mean that’s the only network that can get it, or that it will stay in that group.”

There are certain groups that are most likely to experience severe illness from monkeypox, Dillaha said. “People who have weakened immune system or are taking medicines that weaken there immune system, children under 8, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and of course the people who have the severe illness are more likely to end up in the hospital if they have a complication from the illness,” Dillaha.

According to Dillaha, the monkeypox virus is not as easily spread as the virus that causes COVID-19, and that it can take weeks to notice a monkeypox infection. “It takes up to 21 days to develop monkeypox so the average incubation period is shorter but not as short as COVID-19,” Dillaha said. “If someone has a concern that they may have monkeypox they should certainly talk to their doctor.”

Novack said there’s a small allotment of vaccines in the world and in the United States and that “people do not need to run out and get it”. “This is not super contagious, you’re not going to get it walking through Walmart,” Novack said. “If you’re going to have close skin-to-skin contact, be aware of any rashes or illness in that person.”

There were no reported cases of monkeypox in Arkansas as of June 9th.