Richmond-Henrico Health District prepares for monkeypox as cases climb

19 cases have been confirmed in Virginia so far
Published: Jul. 7, 2022 at 4:30 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - With monkeypox cases rising throughout the state, Richmond-Henrico Health District leaders laid out their plans in case the disease makes it way to Central Virginia.

As of Thursday, there have been 19 confirmed cases of monkeypox, but none are in the Richmond area.

“We still need to keep an eye on it,” said Dr. Melissa Viray of the Richmond-Henrico Health District. “We need to keep an eye out for it, both for individuals who are sexually active and for providers who may be evaluating people for the rash.”

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious disease that can be transmitted through direct contact with body fluid or monkeypox lesions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms from the infection appear between 7-14 days after exposure, and the illness can typically lasts between two to four weeks.

Richmond health leaders say despite not seeing any cases here yet, the district has to prepare for the possibility. They’re laying out a plan to work with the Virginia Department of Health for lab testing, treatment availability, and contact tracing.

“For those considered to be high risk and have high-risk exposure or even intermediate, we may be in contact with an individual not just for monitoring purposes, but also to offer post-exposure prophylaxis or vaccination,” said Viray.

Officials are also clarifying the ways that monkeypox can be contracted.

“Although most, not all cases of monkeypox are associated with this current 2022 outbreak have been identified in gay sex, or men who have sex with other men. It is anyone, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, (who) can get monkeypox if they have close contact with someone who is infected with the virus,” said Viray.

Cases so far have been “mainly but not exclusively been identified amongst men who have sex with men,” according to the World Health Organization. However, the disease has existed for decades and in years past was mainly associated with travel and close proximity regardless of sexual orientation. There is no research to pinpoint if monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids.

If you believe you have monkeypox you are encouraged to immediately call your medical provider for confirmation. Symptoms include a rash, headache, fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion.

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

Send it to 12 here.

Want NBC12’s top stories in your inbox each morning? Subscribe here.