HONOLULU (KHON2) — Officials are sounding the alarm on monkeypox.
Saturday the World Health Organization declared it a global health emergency, designed to help pave the way for a better coordinated global response and free up funding to study vaccine and treatment strategies. An expert said that shouldn’t make a big impact here on the islands.
“This declaration really should have come a long time ago. I think most experts were on the same page with that,” Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center Epidemiologist and Director of infection control Jacob Schafer said.
Because monkeypox isn’t a new virus, there are already vaccines available. Hawaii’s Department of Health has released a two-phase plan to distribute them. Currently, there are about 300 vaccines reserved for people who have been exposed.
Vaccines for those without exposure haven’t been released yet.
“Department of Health hasn’t released who’s going to be eligible for that yet, but we know it’s going to be coming out shortly as part of this national vaccine campaign to really get high-risk individuals vaccinated.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said many of the cases nationwide have been among gay and bisexual men, but health officials said anyone in close contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk of infection.
“That would probably include high-risk gay and bisexual men, men who have sex with men. But it might also include health care workers at high risk, or maybe hotel industry folks that are changing bedsheets,” Shafer added. “I’m not a gay person. I don’t need to worry about this disease. That’s incredibly dangerous, because we know anybody can get it.”
According to the CDC monkeypox starts with:
-Sore throat and cough
-Swollen lymph nodes
That moves into a rash with lesions.
There have been 11 cases confirmed on the islands and about 3,000 reported across the United States. The first two pediatric cases in the U.S. popped up on the continent Friday.
“If it gets in that population, of course can spread within kids. We’re not seeing that widespread at all in Hawaii right now. Very low cases in pediatrics in the U.S. and abroad,” Schafer said.
The good thing is, as it stands this virus isn’t as deadly as COVID, but Schafer warns that the more it spreads through people the more it gets a chance to mutate into something more dangerous.
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“It can be very visceral, very graphic to look at and can cause some scarring from those blisters, but by and large it’s not very lethal. At least 99% of people that give monkey pox will recover just fine. It takes two to four weeks to go away,” said Schafer.