TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Kansas doctors are keeping an eye out for new monkeypox cases, as a positive case of the rare disease has been found in the Kansas City metro area.
A positive case was identified in Johnson County. It’s one of the most populated areas in the state, where the first positive case of coronavirus was also found.
Charlie Hunt, the Deputy Director of the Johnson County Health Department, said the department’s reaction to the positive monkeypox case is nowhere near the level of concern they had for coronavirus.
“With COVID-19, the virus that causes it, it was a novel virus… that’s not the case with Monkeypox,” Hunt told Kansas Capitol Bureau in an interview. “Monkeypox has been around for a long time. It was first discovered in the 1950s, then the first human case was in 1970. So we have seen monkeypox in humans before.”
“We’re not scared. I would say…it is a disease that’s concerning,” he said. “We want to do everything we can to prevent it. For those people who do get infected, it’s certainly a disease that can be very uncomfortable.”
Hunt said the department is currently addressing the presence of the disease through “information sharing”. The agency is monitoring the guidance coming down from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the state health department.
The department is also getting phone calls from people concerned they may have symptoms.
“We have been getting some calls from people who are concerned that they might have monkeypox,” Hunt said. “They’re experiencing similar symptoms, and we’re trying to refer those people to their healthcare providers.”
Hunt said they’re working with healthcare providers to conduct testing and contact tracing to identify any other positive cases.
“People are hearing a lot about it,” Hunt said. “It’s been in the news a lot. So I do think people are calling because of that. As to whether or not there are additional cases here, that’s just something we’re not sure about.”
In the state’s capital city, doctors are also ready to take on any possible infections.
Dr. Clif Jones, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Stormont Vail Health, said the protocols for dealing with a potential case would be similar to coronavirus.
“I do think we will see cases,” Dr. Jones said. “I think they’ll be very sporadic, and I think the majority of individuals will not be in the hospital. If we have a suspected case, we have isolation protocols for just about any kind of infection or potential infection you can imagine.”
“The protection required for a possible case of Monkeypox would be a face mask, gloves and high protection,” he explained.
So far, roughly one thousand monkeypox cases have been identified in the U.S. Health officials said the disease is usually spread through close, skin-to-skin contact. Most patients experience fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. A serious illness could cause rash and painful lesions that appear on the face and hands, spreading to other parts of the body.
Testing for monkeypox usually involves swabbing one of the lesions that come with the disease. In the past, smallpox vaccines have been used to treat the disease.
The U.S. is now ramping up shipments of monkeypox vaccine doses, as cases grow.
“Right now, the monkeypox vaccine isn’t being recommended for widespread use,” Dr. Jones said. “It’s going to be recommended for individuals that have exposure. So it will be a case by case basis.”