TEXAS, USA — The state health department has released its latest numbers on Monkeypox cases in Texas.
According to the Department of State Health Services, 76 Texans have been diagnosed with monkeypox, 27 of those in the Houston area.
That's a "tiny, tiny, tiny number," Houston Health Department Director Dr. David Persse said, pointing out that Houston has a population of 2.2 million.
While many of the symptoms of monkeypox mimic the flu, sores and lesions are what sets it apart.
Person-to-person transmission of monkeypox is primarily through direct contact with infectious lesions, scabs, or body fluids. Anyone who has sores or a rash caused by the virus is infectious until they are fully healed.
All of the Texas patients have been men, according to DSHS, and many of them had 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.”
"During the initial days of the HIV epidemic, there’s so much stigma attached to it, because it was sexually transmitted because it was mostly seen in the gay population," said Dr. Vandana Shrikanth with Legacy Community Health.
Dr. Shrikanth said because of that stigma, it may make people afraid to go see a doctor.
"It is very very important that we diagnose these conditions, and we can only diagnose these patients if we make it easy to seek care," said. Dr. Shrikanth.
Unlike COVID, monkeypox is spread not through the air, but through close contact.
"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.”
Fort Bend County announced its first probable case on Thursday.
"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."
Just this week, the CDC announced a ramping up of both testing capability and vaccinations. More tests have been ordered but won't be available until 2023.