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'Stop and think twice... should I be doing this?' Houston health officials urge prevention amid monkeypox outbreak

There were 16 confirmed cases in Houston and Harris County as of Thursday afternoon and 42 in Texas.

HOUSTON, Texas — Sores and lesions associated with monkeypox are what health officials consider your first warning sign when it comes to possible exposure.

"Often times a hug, a kiss, intimate contact as well," said Harris County Public Health Authority Dr. Ericka Brown.  "Pay attention to those things for anybody who may have signs and symptoms.”

Brown and her Houston Health Department counterpart Dr. David Persse are on the same page.

At this point, they say educating people is the best prescription.

And both agencies have extensive information available on their websites.

RELATED: 4 Fast Facts about monkeypox

“We have 14 cases in Houston out of a population of 2.2 million," said Persse. "That’s a tiny, tiny, tiny number."  

"On the other hand, people who are having intimate partners with lots of other individuals, and maybe not even knowing their names, those are the ones who need to stop and think twice about, you know, 'should I be doing this?'”

That’s because, unlike COVID, monkeypox is spread not through the air, but close contact.

It’s also not detectable through a rapid test like COVID is.

Just this week, the CDC announced a ramping up of both testing capability and vaccinations.

Both should be more widely available beginning in areas with the most infections.

We're told people in Houston and Harris County have gotten vaccinations after close contact with confirmed cases.

"We are seeing spread across the country," said Dr. Brown.  "However, just putting it into context, it’s still a really low number and the mode of transmission is direct contact."

"So vigilance is really the key.”

RELATED: No, the COVID-19 vaccine can’t give you monkeypox

Most cases to date have been among men who have sex with other men.

However, Persse said the HIV epidemic taught us that associating a disease with a particular group isn’t wise.

"Right now, from a public health standpoint, I really, really want us to not think of it as a sexually transmitted illness or one that’s only in the men who have sex with men community," said Persse.  "Because in very short order here that will not be the case.”

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