Updated Sept. 21, 2022, to reflect an increase in cases.
SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) — One hundred and forty four people in South Carolina have contracted monkeypox, although the infection rate for the disease is starting to trend downward throughout the country, according to the Center for Disease Control.
There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox. However, monkeypox and smallpox viruses are similar; so antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may prevent and treat monkeypox infections, according to the CDC’s website.
If you have symptoms of monkeypox, you should talk to your healthcare provider, even if you don’t think you had contact with someone who has monkeypox, according to the CDC.
DHEC State Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell said that while monkeypox infection rates have been higher among men who are intimate with other men, it’s not a sexually transmitted disease.
“Condoms will not necessarily prevent exposure because they might not cover all areas of the skin where the rash appears. Before engaging in sexual activity or intimate contact, people should ask their partner if they have been feeling well or have developed a new rash,” she said.
DHEC has a current supply of 1,500 vaccinations, set aside for the most at-risk groups, Bell said.
In order to be eligible for vaccination at this time, a person must be at least 18 years old and identify as a gay or bisexual man, transgender, gender fluid or gender non-conforming individual who has sex with men and who has had multiple male sexual contacts within the last two weeks, she said.
“We want to emphasize that monkeypox is spread primarily by close intimate skin-to-skin contact directly with somebody who has active lesions. Now, of course, household contacts are also at increased risk if they’re living with someone who has monkeypox,” Bell said.
Bell said the disease doesn’t necessarily come from monkeys, although originally primate colonies were known to be affected, and so the connotation of the name “monkeypox” can be negative. Until the World Health Organization renames this disease, which they’re working on, Bell said she has started to refer to it as “Mpox” to remove any stigma associated with the name of the disease or groups that it’s attached with.
“Mpox” transmission is primarily through direct contact with skin lesions, but respiratory spread may occur after several hours of contact, Bell said.
“Individuals who are actually having symptoms and are concerned that they may have been exposed and their symptoms are a result of that exposure should seek medical care and transmission within a medical facility,” Bell said.
According to the CDC, symptoms of monkeypox can include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
- A rash that may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) but could also be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.
- The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
- The rash can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.
You may experience all or only a few symptoms
- Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.
- Most people with monkeypox will get a rash.
- Some people have developed a rash before (or without) other symptoms.
Monkeypox symptoms usually start within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus. If someone has flu-like symptoms, they will usually develop a rash 1-4 days later.
Monkeypox can be spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.