116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Johnson County Public Health has confirmed the first case of monkeypox within the county, making for the fifth confirmed case in the state — and the first one in the Corridor.
County public health officials said in an announcement they were working with the Iowa Department of Public Health to investigate the circumstances of the individual’s exposure and to inform close contacts of the exposure. No other details were shared on the case.
Infection from the monkeypox virus occurs through skin-to-skin contact and through contact with an infected individual’s rash or sores or touching the clothing and bedding that has been in contact with those rashes or sores. The virus can also spread through respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact, such as kissing. Monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted infection, but it often spreads through intimate contact.
Five cases have been confirmed in Iowa as of Wednesday, according to the state public health department. Of the four previous cases, two have been confirmed in the central region, one in the northeast region and one in the northwest region. The state reported the first probable case on July 2.
As of this week, hundreds of cases have been detected across the United States. New York currently has the highest case count at 581 as of Tuesday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Total confirmed cases globally reached more than 13,000 as of earlier this week, but despite the rapid rise in cases in places like Europe, the World Health Organization stated it would not declare monkeypox a global health emergency.
The public health response
Public health officials have emphasized there is little risk of infection, given that monkeypox is transmitted through close contact. It also means the public health response to monkeypox will look differently than it did for COVID-19, local officials say.
When a case is detected, local public health agencies will still conduct case investigations and notify close contacts of any exposure, much like they did with COVID-19.
“Right now, it’s very much about information-sharing, and waiting and seeing how the response strategy is working in a different outbreak,” Sam Jarvis, community health division manager at Johnson County Public Health, told The Gazette.
Public health officials are emphasizing education for clinicians in the community to detect and care for infected residents.
However, the response has not ramped up to the same degree it did with the novel coronavirus because of the difference in severity. Not only was it a novel virus never seen before, but COVID-19 also resulted in a high number of fatalities, said Heather Meador, clinical services supervisor at Linn County Public Health.
“That’s not something we’re seeing with monkeypox," Meador said. ”The reaction is based on the virus we’re seeing.”
It’s likely vaccines for monkeypox will not be dispersed widely, but instead will be distributed to those exposed to the virus. Getting the vaccine after a recent exposure can reduce the chance of a person being infected with monkeypox, and it can help reduce symptoms if the individual does get it.
Johnson County Public Health officials are encouraging the following residents to seek guidance from their medical provider:
- Individuals who have been in contact with a confirmed or suspected case of monkeypox.
- Individuals who have recently traveled to an area where monkeypox cases are reported, especially if they have symptoms, such as a rash or sores.
- Individuals who symptoms are consistent with monkeypox, especially the characteristic rash and sores.
People typically develop monkeypox seven to 14 days after exposure, but it can take up to 21 days, public health officials said.
The telltale symptom of monkeypox is a rash that can look like pimples or blisters. These appear on the face, inside the mouth and on other parts of the body like the hands, feet, chest or genitals.
Other symptoms include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
Local public health officials emphasize they are prepared for an outbreak and possible community transmission of monkeypox, particularly after the past two years’ experience.
“For most public health professionals engaged with COVID-19, there were a lot of lessons learned,” Jarvis said. “The amount of cases we saw in two years was more than what we would typically see in entire profession, so we’ve see a lot of the (outbreak) process. Our team has revised our process to meet demand and fix bottlenecks and so I think we’re well-prepared, which is a silver lining.”
But after two years of heavy-hitting coronavirus response — which sometimes resulted in abuse and harassment from the public — officials at county public health agencies are still concerned about the state of their workforce and the public health infrastructure.
“It’s taken a toll, emotional and mentally,” Meador said.
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