Northern Michigan Health Departments Prepare for Monkeypox Spread

As U.S. health officials declared Monkeypox a public health emergency, Michigan reached 71 cases of the virus on Thursday.

Monkeypox Ap 0623There is one case in Montcalm County, but local health administrators say it’s only a matter of time before the virus spreads.

“Monkeypox is in the same family as smallpox, but a less severe type of virus,” said District Health Department #10 Medical Director Dr. Jennifer Morse.

Dr. Morse says this particular outbreak of Monkeypox has been different than previous ones.

“This outbreak has just grabbed a foothold in the human population, and has continued to spread,” she said. “Whether or not there’s been a variation in the virus to allow that do to so, has yet to be determined.”

Dr. Morse said people who have the virus may get some flu-like symptoms.

“You might have a fever, body aches, swollen lymph nodes for a few days,” she said. “You may not, you might just develop a rash.”

The rash usually starts where the first skin to skin contact exposure occurred.

“They tend to be painful, maybe a bit itchy, can cause scarring,” Dr. Morse said. “For a lot of people, there’s quite a bit of pain involved.”

And unlike COVID, this virus takes a lot of exposure to be infected.

“You have to have a lot of close contact with individuals that are infected,” said Dr. Morse. “Typically skin to skin contact with someone with a Monkeypox rash. You can spread it through respiratory secretions, but you have to have a lot of exposure.”

Right now, men who have sex with men have primarily gotten the virus, but the health department says anyone can get it – and we need to look past discriminating against a certain group of people.

“It’s a virus that doesn’t discriminate. It will infect anyone,” said Dr. Morse. “Just because it has started in a certain group of individuals, does not mean that it will stay there. The more that we stigmatize the less likely people will come forward if they are ill, and then the more it’s going to spread.”

Dr. Morse said DHD #10, and other local health departments, have doses of the Monkeypox vaccine.

“All of our health departments do have vaccines. Some have more limited supplies than others,” she said. “We do not know how effective it is at preventing infection, but it is something you can do.”

And if you are at risk or think you’ve been exposed, Dr. Morse recommends calling your doctor.

“Just because it’s not here now doesn’t mean it won’t be here soon,” she said. “We really need to just treat this virus as a virus, not that is something that is selective.”