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Five confirmed cases of monkeypox in Pinellas County; experts say rapid spread unlikely

Europe Monkeypox
Posted at 5:12 PM, Jun 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-09 23:26:20-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla.  — The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County has confirmed five cases of monkeypox reported in Pinellas County. This brings the total cases in Florida to more than 70.

“It’s caused by a virus that’s pretty closely related to smallpox but a lot less virulent than smallpox is,” said Dr. Thomas Unnasch.

Dr. Unnasch, a Distinguished USF Health Professor, said it’s not likely that monkeypox will spread rapidly in the Tampa Bay area. Unlike COVID, which is spread by airborne droplets, monkeypox is primarily spread through physical contact. That includes sexual contact and sharing sheets or towels, according to the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County.

The rare disease occurs mostly in central and western Africa but also occurs in other parts of the world. Monkeypox typically begins with flu-like symptoms.

“It starts out with headaches and fatigues and muscle aches, then you get this rash that develops,” Dr. Unnasch said.

The rash can cover various parts of the body including hands, feet, legs and genitals.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many of the U.S. cases are among men who have sex with men, but anyone can get monkeypox through close personal contact.

There is a test for Monkeypox and the Biden Administration is working to get thousands of vaccines to various parts of the US.

“Whenever we do contact tracing we want to make sure we reach those individuals so they get the vaccine because it can be used before the onset of disease to stop the disease in its tracks," explained Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County spokesperson Tom Iovino.

Iovino says while we should be aware of the cases and be on the lookout for symptoms, we should not be too worried about the spread being live COVID because Monkeypox requires much closer contact.

“It's not a disease you can catch from walking in a room. This is not like the flu or a cold. This requires prolonged, close contact or intimate contact or handling bedding or sheets of someone who may have been infected so it’s not really easily spreadable," Iovino added.

The only other Monkeypox cases currently reported in the Tampa Bay area are in Polk County. Two cases are reported there.