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Nebraska’s Public Health Lab on alert for monkeypox

The Nebraska Public Health Laboratory at the University of Nebraska Medical Center is on alert for monkeypox.
Published: May. 27, 2022 at 5:58 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Nebraska Public Health Laboratory at the University of Nebraska Medical Center is on alert for monkeypox.

This comes as the World Health Organization confirms nearly 200 cases of monkeypox worldwide.

Dr. Peter Iwen is the Director of Nebraska’s Public Health Lab at UNMC. He said, “It’s the next thing. Let’s just put it that way. Every public health lab in the United States has now been activated to be on the lookout for monkeypox.”

Iwen says working in labs lately hasn’t been easy. He said, “Dealing with the COVID pandemic and then throwing in the Avian influenza, and now throwing in monkeypox. ‘What’s the next thing,’ is what comes to my mind.”

He says at least one case of monkeypox has been identified in the United States. The World Health Organization says that number is expected to grow.

Iwen says so far, Nebraska has a clean bill of health. He said, “We tested a few people that were at risk, potentially had monkeypox. We have not seen any cases in Nebraska.”

Though rare, monkeypox is in the same family as smallpox. It is transmissible between humans and from animals to humans.

Iwen says most people ages 50 and over have been vaccinated against the virus, but most younger people have not. Iwen said, “The vaccine itself is not something that is routinely given to people.”

Iwen does not recommend getting the vaccine. He said, “They probably wouldn’t have access to the vaccine anyway because it is kept as a vaccine to be used under only certain circumstances.”

For now, Iwen says the best protection is awareness. He said, “Be aware of what’s in your environment.

Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, fatigue, and headaches.

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