Smallpox cases are increasing nationally and in King County. As more cases are reported, people in our community may have questions about local transmission and access to vaccination.
First, a little about the numbers. Several states and counties have reported cases. As of July 6, 2022, the CDC reports nearly 7,000 cases worldwide and 560 cases in the United States. Public Health identified nine cases from King County as of July 6. These numbers change frequently, so for the most recent case counts, visit CDC outbreak summary and Monkeypox page from King County.
Recent cases of smallpox have been identified in residents who reported no travel during the time they would have been exposed, suggesting the virus was transmitted locally. Public Health connects with known cases to provide advice and assess potential exposure to others. If close contacts are anonymous, Public Health reaches out to places or events where exposure may have occurred.
anyone who has chickenpox symptoms or have been in close contact with someone with chickenpox should contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible for an evaluation.
“Finding chickenpox in residents who have likely been exposed locally highlights the importance for people who are most at risk for smallpox and for health care providers be able to recognize symptoms promptly and take steps to limit the risk of infection and spread to others.”
“We expect to see additional cases locally as the outbreak grows in the US and globally. We are working to limit the impact on our community by collaborating with a strong network of community organizations to share information so people can quickly recognize if they develop a rash or other flu-like symptoms, limit close contact if symptoms arise, and check out immediately.”
Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer, Public Health – Seattle and King County
There are other contagious diseases that can cause rashes or skin lesions. It is important for anyone with a new rash to be evaluated by a healthcare professional who can assess whether the rash is smallpox or another infection. In particular, people with new eruptions should be aware that the syphilis rate is increasing in King County and nationally.
“In the current outbreak, people have had skin lesions that can resemble common sexually transmitted infections such as herpes or syphilis. Some cases are more subtle and can go unnoticed if people aren’t looking for them,” added Dr. Duchess..
A person’s identity does not put them at risk for smallpox. A person’s risk is determined by their behavior and the people, or network of people, with whom they come into physical contact. Monkeypox is transmitted through close physical contact. The risk of smallpox is not limited to sexually active people or men who have sex with men.
As this is a more recent outbreak, national and international public health bodies are still learning about potential networks or behaviors that could put people at greater risk. What we do know is that most cases have occurred among men who reported sexual or intimate contact with other men, sometimes with multiple partners. Many national and international cases have been identified in sexual health clinics. So far, the cases in King County have been among men who have reported sexual contact with other men.
Monkeypox vaccine can be an effective tool to help prevent illness before exposure or make it less severe after exposure. Jynneos is the main vaccine distributed at this time.
It can take up to three weeks after exposure to the virus before symptoms begin. The CDC recommends that the vaccine be given within 4 days of exposure for the best chance of preventing illness. If given between 4 and 14 days after exposure, vaccination may reduce disease symptoms but may not prevent disease.
It’s important to contact your doctor if you think you’ve been exposed. Public Health is working with healthcare professionals to help facilitate access to the vaccine for those who have been exposed.
Distribution of vaccines
The national vaccine supply for Monkeypox is currently limited, although more is expected in the coming weeks and months. The CDC is allocating the limited amount of vaccine using a tiered distribution strategy that prioritizes jurisdictions with the highest smallpox case rates. King County had relatively few cases compared to other jurisdictions. Therefore, it is currently not our priority to receive a large number of doses of the vaccine.
We are coordinating with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), which is responsible for allocating vaccines for the entire state. We will receive about 250 courses (500 doses) from the DOH, and we can facilitate vaccination for high-risk contacts of people who test positive for monkeypox. We are also working with health systems now to plan when more vaccines are available, including ensuring equitable distribution to people without insurance. We will provide updates when more vaccines are available.
Infections with the monkeypox virus strain identified in this outbreak are rarely fatal. People who get sick often have flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, and back and muscle pain, as well as swollen lymph nodes and general exhaustion. Most people also develop a painful rash. People infected with the virus usually recover in 2-4 weeks, but the illness can be serious, especially for immunocompromised people, children, people with a history of eczema, or people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
How smallpox spreads
Monkeypox spreads from person to person in different ways.
- Direct contact with the infectious rash, crusts, or body fluids
- Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
- Touching items (such as clothes or sheets) that have previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
- Pregnant women can transmit the virus to the fetus through the placenta
Monkeypox virus does not spread through the air over long distances, unlike the virus that causes COVID-19.
Monkeypox can cause flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash that can appear anywhere on the body. In the current outbreak, many men had lesions on the genitals or anal area, and some men initially had rectal pain.
How to protect yourself and others
Talk to people you’ve been in close physical contact with about your general health, such as a rash or recent wounds.
If you have symptoms, particularly a rash consistent with monkeypox, or if you have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox:
- Contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible for an assessment
- Avoid sex and meetings, especially if they involve close, personal, skin-to-skin or prolonged personal contact, until you are examined by a doctor
- Inform sexual partners of any symptoms you are experiencing
- Cover the rash with clean, dry, loose-fitting clothing
- Wear a well-fitting mask
Decreased risk of stigma
Public health is committed to informing people about health issues that may affect them, and we recognize that there is a risk of stigma or discrimination when communicating about a new disease outbreak that primarily affects a specific community. Stigmatizing a certain group or person for any disease is never good. We all need to do what we can in public health and in the community to bring attention to any stigmatizing actions related to the monkeypox virus and instead do what we can to share information so people can make better decisions. for your health and the health of the community.
Additional information about smallpox for the public and healthcare professionals is available. available at CDC.
Originally Posted on 06/07/2022