Monkeypox is not common in Colorado, but the state health department is asking the public to monitor symptoms and answer the phone if health officials call to alert you to a potential infection.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment reported two suspected cases of monkeypox in May and three in June. All of these people have either traveled to countries where monkeypox is spreading more widely or have been in close contact with someone who has, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said Wednesday. While the virus does not appear to be spreading significantly in Colorado, public health leaders want to stop it before it takes root in people or animals.
“We want people to be informed about the signs and symptoms of monkeypox,” she said. “The goal is to prevent the next generation of cases.”
Brief interactions without physical contact are unlikely to spread monkeypox, Herlihy said. High-risk exposure includes skin-to-skin contact or cohabitation with an infected person, and handling items such as towels and sheets used by someone with a monkeypox rash. The majority of people infected in the current outbreak are men who have sex with men.
None of the people suspected of having monkeypox in Colorado were hospitalized or died, Herlihy said. A “handful” of people have been hospitalized in other states, she said, and the death rate from this version of the virus is less than 1%.
Monkeypox typically causes flu-like symptoms and a rash that can resemble pimples, Herlihy said. The rash can appear anywhere on the body, although people infected during the current outbreak are more likely to report it in the genital or anal area.
People who notice an unusual rash or think they may have been exposed should talk to their healthcare provider, Herlihy said. Typically, symptoms resolve without treatment, although an infected person should be isolated from people and pets until that happens, she said.
The vaccine can prevent the development of symptoms if a person receives it in the first days after exposure, Herlihy said. If a person is vaccinated more than four days after exposure, the chances of completely preventing the disease are lower, she says, but the vaccine can still reduce the severity of symptoms.
Scott Bookman, director of the state Department of Health’s Division of Disease Control and Public Health Response, said the state has requested about 100 doses from the national stockpile from the CDC.
The CDC has reported 142 confirmed cases across 23 states and the District of Columbia. Around 3,100 cases have been reported globally in countries where the virus is not normally found, with the largest number of cases in the UK, Germany and Portugal.
Sign up for a bi-weekly newsletter to receive health news straight to your inbox.