WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Health experts are sounding the alarm on monkeypox as the CDC is reporting 373 cases in the Sunshine State and people have a lot of questions as doctors say South Florida becomes a hot spot.
"Monkeypox is around. It's growing exponentially and that's the concern that we have," said Dr. Kleper De Almeida M.D. and Infectious Disease Specialist with JFK Medical Center.
"Actually, I don't know much about monkeypox but I would like to learn," said Martin Hamilton who has questions about monkeypox.
Julian Mullings also has concerns.
"First things I'd want to know is how long will it last and what are other ways of getting it?" said Mullings.
In Palm Beach County, numbers have been climbing with a total of 18 confirmed cases as of Friday evening.
"I have no idea what the symptoms are. I think it's much more serious than COVID, if you get it you're in trouble," said Thomas Witkop, who also has questions about monkeypox.
"The symptoms that people have, they usually have a fever, body aches, swollen glands followed by the appearance of the rash," said De Almeida.
De Almeida said people can develop contagious bumps on their skin that are said to be painful, spread simply by being in close contact with people.
"It can affect anybody because when someone has a skin lesion, they can transmit the virus through respiratory droplets, so people that are in close contact with them, family members, friends, partners could get the infection even if they don't have direct contact with the other person's skin," said De Almeida.
He said a person is only contagious while they have skin lesions, which can last up to 4 weeks.
"I think it's important for people who have these skin lesions to come and get checked because that allows us to identify them, isolate them, ask who they've been in contact with, reach out to those folks, vaccinate them and prevent spread," said De Almeida.
Vaccines are in short supply at health departments now so, for now, they're only available for people who are most at risk, those who have been exposed to someone with the virus.
"The companies that produce these vaccines are two different vaccines, they are revving up production in expectations that more folks would be candidates for the vaccine moving forward if we are not able to contain this epidemic," said De Almeida.
The Palm Beach Department of Health is offering the vaccines for those high-risk groups, and hotspot counties like Broward and Miami-Dade are booking appointments online for people looking to get vaccinated.