HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Biden Administration announced a public health emergency as monkeypox cases continue to rise around the nation. In Hawaii, the Department of Health confirmed a case Thursday, on Maui, bringing the total number of cases to 12 in the state.
DOH confirmed the first detected case of monkeypox on Maui, the DOH Communications Director Katie Arita-Chang said it is associated with travel as a Maui resident traveled outside of the state.
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Arita-Chang said, “We did case investigation and contact tracing. And yes, at this time, we believe that the case is associated to travel outside of Hawaii.”
“The risk to most Hawaii residents remains low, but action now is essential for protecting public health,” Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Nathan Tan said in a statement.
The incubation period for monkeypox could be up to three weeks. The DOH said the confirmed cases in the state showed symptoms associated with the virus.
“What we’re seeing in monkeypox cases, and as part of this outbreak are a new rash, or sores that are often painful and itchy,” Arita-Chang said. “That could be preceded by a fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes on your neck or armpits.”
There are over 6,600 known monkeypox infections in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also said that nearly all cases were among men who have sex with other men. However, anyone who has close contact with someone who’s infected with monkeypox can get it.
Arita-Chang said, “Manufacturing is really limited and distribution remains limited throughout the country. So, we’re probably going to get that in a few tranches.”
New York has almost a third of all cases, followed by California. In Hawaii, at least some of the cases have been reported among gay or bisexual men, the DOH said.
The Gay Island Guide Founder Walter Enriquez said the DOH should consider expanding eligibility, especially as a national public health emergency has not been declared by the Biden Administration.
Enriquez said, “We need to start doing the prevention now, instead of waiting until those numbers increase, we end up having to deal with yet another pandemic.”
The DOH said limited supply does not allow them to give the vaccine to anyone who would like to get one.
Arita-Chang said, “We definitely expect and hope and, you know, want to expand eligibility when there’s more supply available, which may be what we’re hearing is fall or winter right now.”
Enriquez said he hopes to work with the DOH to bring monkeypox education and access to vaccines directly into the community.
Enriquez said, “We’re working with the Department of Health and hoping to start getting or setting up events where they’ll come and actually provide vaccinations and make it a little bit easier for our community to get vaccinated.”
Monkeypox is mainly spread through intimate contact involving body fluids, lesion material, or items used by someone who’s infected. It may also be spread through large respiratory droplets, which generally can’t travel more than a few feet.
If you have flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, or new or unexplained rash or sores, contact your healthcare provider immediately. Testing and treatment are available through healthcare providers.
Vaccination is available statewide. DOH has distributed nearly 1,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine, and it was recently allocated an additional 2,660 doses.
DOH is taking appointments for monkeypox vaccines through its hotline, which you can call Monday through Friday, from 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You may also leave a voicemail.
You are eligible for the vaccine if:
- You had exposure to someone with confirmed monkeypox virus within the last 14 days
- You had high risk intimate contact in areas where monkeypox is known to be spreading in the last 14 days
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The CDC said it is most often transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, sharing towels and bedding, as well as prolonged face-to-face contact.