Prevention efforts ramp up in Georgia, U.S. as monkeypox virus spreads

Health officials are working to prevent further spread of the monkeypox virus in the United States. So far in Georgia, one person is suspected of having it and is isolating at home.

Investigators at the state Department of Health are coordinating with the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm whether the person’s symptoms can be traced to the virus.

The risk to the general population remains low, says infectious disease expert Dr. Jennifer McQuiston. But, it’s critical to identify new cases as quickly as possible to prevent an increase in infections.

There could be community level transmission that is happening and that’s why we want to really increase our surveillance efforts,” she says. “We want to really encourage physicians that if they see a rash and they’re concerned it might be monkeypox to go ahead and test for that. That’s one of the one of the things that we want to emphasize.”

Most of the current confirmed cases in the U.S. are among men who have sex with men — but officals stress the virus can affect anyone.

It can spread through close physical contact, and many of the U.S. cases have also been linked to international travel.

Investigators have detailed at least 17 cases so far. Of those, 16 were among men who have sex with men and one was a woman. At least four more cases are still under examination.

Monkeypox is considered rare in the U.S. It sometimes spreads to humans from wild animals, where it originates.

In addition to having a distinctive skin rash, an infected person may also experience fever, chills and other symptoms.

Treatment includes vaccines previously developed for smallpox, which is also effective against monkeypox.  

Dawn O’Connell, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response for the Biden administration says the country has a stockpile of vaccines ready to treat anyone who’s been exposed to monkeypox.

“We continue to have more than enough vaccine available,” she says. “We do have them pre-positioned in several sites around the country.”