Washington ‘in the midst’ of monkeypox outbreak as case count nears 400

The monkeypox virus (hMPXV) continues to spread throughout Washington as the state is closing in on 400 cases.

 

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Washington State Department of Health (DOH) officials discussed monkeypox during a media briefing on Thursday. DOH Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said there 392 cases in the state, including 318 in King County. 

King County announced its first pediatric case of the virus Wednesday, which brought the state’s total to 2 pediatric cases, Shah said. There have not been any deaths related to the virus in the state, although there have been 12 hospitalizations, he said.

“There have been deaths across the globe, but we have been fortunate not to have any in Washington,” Shah said. “Any time we have an outbreak, it’s both emerging and evolving. We cannot let off our guard. COVID-19 has been the most recent example of why there are twists and turns. There are twists and turns MPV can take as well. We want to make sure our efforts focus on response.”

DOH Epidemiologist of Communicable Diseases Dr. Scott Lindquist said the state is in the midst of its monkeypox outbreak and has not seen a sustained decrease in cases.

“There’s not enough data to say we’re on the down side of this,” Lindquist said. “We have yet to see a stalling out of cases and we have not seen a downturn yet. We are not there yet. But we should see a downturn within the next month for sure.”

The virus can affect anyone, but has been predominantly found in men who have sex with men. Lindquist said additional segments of people are being exposed, however.

“It is now starting to move to people outside of men who have sex with men, including women and kids under 18,” Lindquist said. “If you’re a person who is around a case of monkeypox you’re at higher risk, but anyone can be around someone with a case of monkeypox.”

DOH officials warned residents about stigmas associated with the virus earlier this month, and have been discussing ways to combat misinformation, bias, and harassment with leaders in the LGBTQ community in Seattle.

Manny Santiago, Executive Director of the state’s LGBTQ Commission, said the virus has proportionately impacted the LGBTQ community.

“It does not make the virus a gay disease,” Santiago said. “There’s plenty of misinformation out there. Some of the best tools against stigmatization are education, engagement, and open conversations. The DOH has held conversations to address the concerns in the community. Yesterday, [Shah] sat down with LGBTQ commissioners [to make] an educational video. The LGBTQ communities are holding our organizations accountable. Be thoughtful, intentional, and cautious in the ways you talk about this disease.”

Shah said anyone who has an unexplained rash should have a medical professional look at it. 

“Keep it covered,” Shah said. “Make sure you’re not exposing that rash to others.”

DOH launched its monkeypox hotline on Aug. 11th. Those with questions can call 1-833-829-HELP to get information about the virus.