HOUSTON — On Thursday, more cases of monkeypox were confirmed in Texas.
The Texas Department of Health is now reporting 12 cases statewide, three of which are not linked to travel, indicating that transmission is now happening in the community.
Currently, there are four cases confirmed in the Greater Houston Area, all of which have been linked to travel.
This week, a new campaign was launched to prepare to vaccinate Americans who could be at risk for the monkeypox virus.
Vaccine production has ramped up in the United States as case numbers worldwide continue to rise. Across the globe, the CDC reports 5,115 cases with at least 350 in the U.S.
Dr. Luis Ostrosky, chief of infectious diseases at UTHealth and Memorial Hermann, says although Monkeypox isn’t new, the current rate of transmission is.
“This is a very abnormal pattern for transmission,” Ostrosky said. “We haven’t seen this before. To the point where it’s about to be declared a global pandemic.”
This transmission chain appears to be very efficient, Ostrosky said, and is spread through close contact.
“It has been primarily transmitting through networks of men who have sex with men, at this point,” he said.
Symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes and a distinct, pus-filled rash which usually develops up to two weeks after exposure. Ostrosky says Houston area hospitals are looking out for it and if a case is suspected, the patient is isolated and tested.
The isolation period for Monkeypox is 21 days.
Most people who develop the virus will recover. Ostrosky said it’s estimated about 90% will be OK. But even still, it can be deadly. Health officials said those most at risk include the immunocompromised, the very young, the old, the pregnant and unborn.
Although spread seems to be through close physical contact, there’s growing concern community transmission will become more frequent and could spread within a household.
This week, the Biden administration began a new campaign to vaccinate anyone who thinks they’re at risk. Previously, healthcare workers or anyone who had known contact with the virus was offered a vaccine, however, this will soon be opened up to anyone who thinks they’re at risk nationwide.
About 56,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine are being rushed throughout the US with 1.6 million expected over the coming months. At this point it’s unclear when they will become widely available in Houston.
“We are in a crucial point in this epidemic,” Ostrosky said. “We may be able to contain it in this network of sexual transmission, if it makes a jump to the community setting where it’s going to be more casual, more household contacts, we may have to vaccinate a lot more people.”