CLEVELAND — Nearly 3,000 people so far have tested positive for monkeypox in the United States, according to the CDC.
Last week, the World Health Organization declared a global public health emergency due to the rising number of monkeypox cases.
Prior to this global health declaration, monkeypox had only been reported in Africa, with it spreading to people from infected wild animals. However, in Europe and North America, experts are seeing it spread among people with no links to animals or recent travel to Africa, with confirmed cases in more than 70 countries.
Ohio had its first confirmed case back on June 13.
Dr. David Margolius, division director of internal medicine at MetroHealth, is about to transition as the new City of Cleveland Director of Public Health next month.
“At this point, we have a handful of cases in Northeast Ohio,” he explained. “Monkeypox is a virus that seems to spread from close skin to skin contact or close household contacts. It causes a painful rash that looks like a group of pustules together. It's mostly self-limiting, and hopefully once it resolves, that person will become immune.”
One of the largest barriers, Margolius said, is acquiring more vaccines for the disease from the federal government.
“In Ohio, it seems that vaccines are only available to people who have a known exposure to someone with monkeypox,” he said. “I don't think most people should be concerned about it. But I think people should be wanting to know more about it and wanting to see a more coordinated response.”
Monkeypox now joins a list of declared global health emergencies such as the H1N1 virus in 2009, the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the Zika virus in 2015, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We want to get ahead of it,” said Xavier Becerra, U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary. “You don't want it to become a part of life. But how many people have died compared, to say, COVID-19? Zero."
“I would love for people to continue to advocate for more vaccines, but I certainly don't want folks to panic,” Margolius added.
According to the Ohio Department of Health: “It is important to note that anyone can get monkeypox, even though most cases associated with the investigation in the United States have occurred among men who have sex with men.”
“It is really important at this point to get vaccines to those people who are at highest risk,” Margolius added. “We look forward to partnering with the LGBTQ+ community to get vaccines out to the people who need it.”
UPDATE: A day after our report aired, the Ohio Department of Health sent us this statement:
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) has been working on distributing messaging to local health departments and healthcare providers in the state. The main goals now are to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of monkeypox and to promote testing for patients with a new onset of a rash consistent with monkeypox. Monkeypox does not spread easily between people, so at this time, the risk of monkeypox in Ohio is believed to be low. Anyone in close contact with a person with monkeypox can get it, though, and should take steps to protect themselves. ODH has also been working with our federal and local partners to distribute treatment when indicated for patients who test positive, and to offer vaccine for individuals who have been exposed to monkeypox, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. Currently, there is a limited supply of JYNNEOS vaccine in the United States, although more is expected in the coming weeks and months. ODH is looking forward to continuing to engage with populations who are most impacted during this outbreak to distribute vaccine as more becomes available.