Monkeypox in Douglas County: How the health department is equipped to fight an outbreak

Four more cases of monkeypox have been reported in Douglas County now bringing the total to 10 since the outbreak began.
Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 5:42 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A day after the Biden administration declared a public health emergency, four more cases of monkeypox reported in Douglas County brought the local total to 10 local cases since the international outbreak began.

Some states developed 500 cases. New York alone has nearly 2,000. But in Nebraska and Iowa, it’s fewer than 20 cases in each state.

There’s still a limited supply of the monkeypox vaccine nationwide. In Douglas County, those vaccinations are only for people working directly with patients and those exposed. Health officials think the new presidential declaration will change that.

“With the public health emergency declaration, we’re hoping that’s getting the wheels moving so that we start to receive more vaccines, more antivirals, so we can address this current outbreak,” said Justin Frederick, supervisor of epidemiology the Douglas County Health Department.

“We’re not as dense of a population. We’re not as dense of city. And I think that is to our benefit,” Frederick said.

The Douglas County Health Department does its own testing for orthopox, the family from which monkeypox originates. Suspected cases come back positive for orthopox and are then sent to the CDC for further testing. At the CDC, the sample is tested for monkeypox specifically.

But officials say they’re almost certain that right now a positive orthopox case is a positive monkeypox case.

A potential hot spot for the spread is on college campuses. But Creighton University officials tell 6 News that they’re equipped with a public messaging campaign to educate their students on the symptoms as well as available testing and vaccines sites.

And as students prepare for the start of school, Max Fritsch puts this faith in the university.

“I’m not too worried yet. But if things do get a little worse, I’m comfortable that the school, the university, will handle it well,” said Fritsch, a rising senior. “I didn’t have a problem with wearing a mask, social distancing. Again, I trust the school that they would do the right thing to keep students safe, faculty safe.”

All of the confirmed cases in Douglas County have been close skin-to-skin contact. For that reason, monkeypox is less transmissible than COVID-19.

Health experts warn against equating monkeypox to COVID-19.

“Monkeypox is not COVID-19; it’s not going to be the next COVID-19. I do think that we’re going to see more cases,” Frederick said. “The key right now is breaking the chain of transmission and controlling the outbreak.”

That means working with public health officials as they identify close contacts and exposures.

Officials tell 6 News that there are treatments available if you’ve had direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has monkeypox. It’s best to go to the county health department within four to fourteen days of exposure.

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