TAMPA, Fla. — “It’s out there and still increasing in its numbers,” said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, Distinguished USF Health Professor.
More people across the United States are testing positive for monkeypox.
“It’s doubling in the United States about once every 18 to 20 days,” said Unnasch.
There are reported monkeypox cases in at least 43 states and Washington, D.C.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 480 cases have been confirmed in Florida so far.
On Tuesday, Pasco County announced its first monkeypox case.
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“If we look towards the end of the year, if this thing runs unchecked, if it’s doubling every 18 to 21 days, that’s 10 doublings to the end of the year —10 doublings equals 1000x more cases,” said Unnasch.
That’s why researchers are now on high alert tracking numbers.
“At the end of the year, if we don’t get a handle on this, we could be seeing a half a million cases,” said Unnasch.
Public health officials are working on getting control of monkeypox by using education, making sure at-risk populations are aware and working on a good contact tracing system.
“If you’re a contact or even a contact of a contact, the vaccine will be made available to you. You’ll be able to get the shot, and that will probably tamp it down pretty quick. That’s how we eradicated smallpox from the world,” said Unnasch.
While federal officials are moving more of the vaccines that are used to treat monkeypox from the national stockpile, they’re still not widespread.
“The vaccines are available but not in huge numbers and not all over the U.S.,” Dr. Jill Roberts, Associate Professor for the USF College of Public Health.
According to the CDC, populations that are at an increased risk for the virus include children under eight, pregnant people, people who are immunocompromised, or anyone with a history of Atopic dermatitis or eczema.
“Right now, it’s still pretty much confined to men who have sex with men and primarily those who have multiple sex partners,” said Unnasch.
However, anyone can get monkeypox. Just a few days ago, two kids reportedly tested positive for the virus in Indiana.
In order for it to spread, this virus requires close, prolonged skin-to-skin contact. According to the CDC, it could also be spread through close respiratory contact, bodily fluids, and contact with soiled clothes, towels, or bedding.
“There’s some evidence that soiled linens, for example, of a person who has it they might be able to transmit it by through contact with the soiled linens," said Unnasch.
“Your chances of being exposed to it are fairly low, but you should be aware of the symptoms,” said Roberts.
Doctors said monkeypox usually starts with flu-like symptoms, including fever, headaches, muscle aches, chills, rash or lesions that look like pimples or blisters.
“This monkeypox is really presenting as a rash in the genitals and the anal area,” said Roberts.
“If you feel sick, stay home,” said Unnasch.
“Anyone who is actually displaying any types of symptoms should go ahead and seek care,” said Roberts.