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Should South Florida residents be concerned about monkeypox?

Monkeypox produces rash similar to smallpox
Posted at 5:12 PM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 18:21:03-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — There are now two "presumptive" cases of monkeypox that are being investigated in Broward County, according to state health officials.

In a statement Sunday from the Florida Department of Health, they said the first case is related to international travel and the individual remains isolated.

Health officials announced Monday they were investigating a second presumptive case. That person is also being isolated.

Other cases in the U.S. have been reported in Massachusetts and New York.

"Right now, there are over 100 cases in European counties, as well as Australia, Canada and now three cases in the U.S.," said Dr. Larry Bush, an infectious disease specialist in Wellington.

He said monkeypox is generally rare and was first discovered in rats.

Dr. Larry Bush, May 23, 2022
Dr. Larry Bush discusses how many cases of monkeypox have been diagnosed across the world.

Doctors say monkeypox is similar to smallpox but is generally less severe. Symptoms include a headache, fever and a nasty rash.

"We're seeing quite a humongous spread from human to human, and it has spread faster than I have ever seen," Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease specialist at Florida International University, said referring to the outbreak in several European countries.

World health officials said this latest outbreak of monkeypox seems to be connected to gay men in Europe, but doctors point out that the spread of monkeypox can occur by any close contact with an infected person.

Dr. Aileen Marty, May 23, 2022
Dr. Aileen Marty of Florida International University describes the rapid spread of monkeypox.

"The major spread is by contact with the lesions, so you may be sitting next to someone with a rash who doesn't recognize this as anything unusual because they may not be very ill," Bush said. "Since there hasn't been smallpox — an obviously monkeypox — in this country for quite some time, the average practitioner may not recognize that."

There is no specific monkeypox vaccine, but doctors say the smallpox vaccine — last given in 1972 — is effective against it.

At this point, it does not appear to create the same level of concern as COVID-19, but around a contagious person, doctors say a mask can definitely help.