ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As COVID-19 continues to spread in the Capital Region, reports of a different virus are drawing concern. However, local health experts are not panicking over the news that at least two cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in the U.S.
“Most of the cases, over the course of several weeks, should resolve itself,” said Dr. Tomoko Udo from the UAlbany School of Public Health. “You just have to make sure that you know when the symptoms happen, you don’t touch anyone, and you go to the doctor and get treated properly.”
Monkeypox isn’t a novel illness like COVID-19. The virus was first discovered in a colony of monkeys in 1958. According to the CDC, the first human case was recorded in 1970. It’s not usually seen outside of Africa, where it’s endemic in animals.
Since May 14, multiple people were diagnosed in several countries that don’t normally have monkeypox, including the U.K. and Spain. On May 18, a case was confirmed in a Massachusetts resident following travel to Canada. A day later, the NYC health department began investigating two cases. One was ruled out, but the other is being treated as positive.
The smallpox vaccine does work for monkeypox, but experts don’t believe the spread has yielded that need.
“Unless the community is experiencing a smallpox outbreak, it’s not readily available just for the complexity of giving the vaccine,” Udo said, “but again, there is a way to prevent it if the community is experiencing an outbreak.”
Although the disease belongs to the same virus family as smallpox, its symptoms are milder. They include fever, body ache, and a raised rash.
“What we want to do now is make sure that clinicians are aware of this so that they can assist with any testing of rashes that they might feel are of concern,” said Albany County Health Commissioner Dr. Elizabeth Whalen.
Dr. Whalen added that monkeypox isn’t as readily transmissible as COVID-19, which is still prevalent in the community, along with an unusually high number of flu cases for this time of year.
“Flu and COVID are things that I think are much more of a concern to the Albany public than monkeypox at this time,” Dr. Whalen said, “and I would encourage people to continue the behaviors that we’ve been talking about for the last two and a half years, including vaccination.”