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Health Alert: Monkeypox Cases in NYS and Neighboring Counties; Caution Advised

(Ithaca, N.Y., July 01, 2022) – The Tompkins County Health Department is alerting the community of the rising incidence of the virus known as monkeypox, a rare viral infection that, if left undetected and untreated, can cause severe illness, hospitalization and, rarely, death. While risk of contracting the disease for the general public is low, it is important for the community to know how the disease is acquired, its symptoms, how to reduce personal risk, and to seek evaluation as soon as possible, especially if you are immunocompromised and at high risk.

As of June 30, 2022, a total of 86 New York state confirmed monkeypox cases have been identified, with 78 in New York City, 5 in Westchester County, 1 in Sullivan County, 1 in Chemung County and 1 in Rockland County. To date there have been no monkeypox related deaths reported in New York State.

Monkeypox is spread through close physical contact between individuals. This includes:

  • Skin-to-skin contact with monkeypox sores or rashes; or skin contact with dressings, fabrics etc. which have come into contact with skin lesions.
  • Being within 3 feet of an infected person (especially if they are coughing) since respiratory droplets and oral fluids from someone with monkeypox are contagious.

Symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • Rashes, bumps, or blisters on or around the genitals or in other areas like your hands, feet, chest, or face which are not clearly due to another known cause.
  • Please note that this current strain of monkeypox has a rash that does not present as it has previously; internet searches for “monkeypox rashes” may look different; any suspicious new rashes, bumps or blisters should be examined by a health care provider.
  • Swollen lymph glands.
  • Suspicion of monkeypox is greater if flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, and fatigue are present as well. These symptoms may occur before or after the rash appears, or not at all.

Important facts and steps to take to reduce risk:

  • Avoid close face-to-face and skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a monkeypox-related rash or other symptoms.
  • Ask your sexual partners whether they have a rash or other symptoms consistent with monkeypox and if so, delay sex until they are evaluated by a healthcare provider.
  • If you are exposed or experience symptoms, make sure to reach out to a health care provider.
  • Avoid risky behaviors if traveling to a region, state, or country where monkeypox is present.
  • Know that the disease is contagious from the onset of symptoms or rash until the scabs of the rash have dried up and fallen off and the skin is healing well underneath.
  • It may take 21 days from exposure until one develops signs of the infection.
  • The NYS Department of Health reports that a vast majority of monkeypox cases have occurred within populations of men who have sex with other men, however, it has been spread man to woman, and woman to woman and without sexual relations.

If you are concerned about your risk, your health care provider can perform a risk-assessment and identify the appropriate steps to take. Treatments are available for those who meet criteria and are infected with monkeypox, including antiviral medication. A vaccine is used for those at high risk of infection who meet criteria.

Anyone who does not currently have a health care provider or who is uninsured and seeking a local provider should call 2-1-1 (1-877-211-8667).

Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa stated, “We are issuing this press release to keep the community informed about this disease and the steps to take to prevent exposure. This disease rarely results in death but can be extremely painful and cause permanent, severe scarring to those infected. We advise taking steps to prevent infection and contacting your health care provider right away if you suspect you may have come in contact with someone who has the disease or if you are experiencing symptoms.”

Kruppa added, “We are also asking health care providers to be aware of the symptoms and risk factors and be alert that monkeypox is spreading in New York State. Providers can order tests for monkeypox in coordination with the Health Department.”

The Tompkins County Health Department is your partner for a healthy community. Find us online at TompkinsCountyNY.gov/health, and follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/TompkinsPublicHealth and on Twitter at @TompkinsHealth. Sign up to receive COVID-19 updates or other county announcements via email or text.

Media contact: Shannon Alvord, salvord@tompkins-co.org

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