AUSTIN, Texas — Monkeypox cases are on the rise nationwide. The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 338 cases on Friday. In Austin nine have been confirmed and there are 32 more "presumptive" cases.
Once a rare disease, monkeypox is now a public health emergency declared by the World Health Organization.
Health experts said that designation does not necessarily mean it's particularly transmissible or lethal.
"This monkeypox virus spreads very easily from skin to skin contact," Dr. David Winter said with Baylor Scott & White.
Anyone can be susceptible, but Winter said symptoms may vary.
"We were told that it starts with muscle aches, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a couple of weeks later, you get this rash. Well, the rash can come early. You can skip all the earlier symptoms, so the rash also can be just a few little blisters in places you may not know where to look," Winter said.
Rashes can last two to four weeks. If a person becomes exposed to someone who has monkeypox, Chris Van Deusen, a spokesperson for the state health department, said getting vaccinated may stop symptoms from developing. However, vaccines are currently in low supply.
"Roughly 14,000 to 15,000 doses we've distributed out across the state, including about 3,000 to Austin Public Health," Van Deusen said.
Austin Public Health is working to identify monkeypox patients and their close contacts to stop the spread and administer vaccines only to those who really need them.
"We're giving out the vaccine right now as post-exposure prophylaxis, which means that we're giving it to people who have already been exposed to monkeypox," Heather Cooks-Sinclair said, the manager of the Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Unit with APH.
Cooks-Sinclair said people need to go to a doctor if they've been exposed to then get tested.
As they monitor exposures, she said they expect case numbers to rise.
"We're identifying cases because we're out there looking for them as well is really the bottom line," Cooks-Sinclair said.
According to Van Deusen, the state health department will distribute more vaccines in the coming weeks.
"Some additional vaccine will be coming our way kind of in a rollout over the next several weeks. So there will be more vaccines coming to Texas and we're going to push that out again to the local health departments just as quickly as we can," Van Deusen said.
For more information on monkeypox cases in Travis County, click here.
For the CDC's monkeypox signs and symptoms, click here.
For key facts about monkeypox from the World Health Organization, click here.
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