SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) — On Thursday, Aug. 4, the Biden administration officially declared monkeypox a public health emergency. According to The Hill, it is a move that is aimed at freeing up emergency funding and improving the distribution of vaccines and treatments.

The first presumptive case of monkeypox in Kansas was found in Johnson County on Saturday, July 9.

In Sedgwick County, the health department says it is prepared.

“We are ahead of this. We weren’t really ahead of COVID, it came more quickly, but we already have the training to identify it,” said Sedgwick County Health Director Adrienne Byrne. “We have the training to do contact investigations. So, if and when it comes, we’re going to be able to address this”

Byrne says that nationally, 2.5 million doses of FDA-approved vaccines for monkeypox have been ordered. She says they will be distributed in shipments now through mid-2023.

To prevent contracting the virus, Byrne says to maintain your distance from anyone sick and to not share towels or bedsheets.

Although monkeypox in the U.S. is primarily in the gay and bisexual community, regardless of sexual orientation and gender, anyone can get monkeypox, according to Byrne.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g., sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
  • A rash that may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) but could also be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth. The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
  • The rash can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy. Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g., sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
  • A rash that may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) but could also be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.
    • The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
    • The rash can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.

You may experience all or only a few symptoms.

  • Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.
  • Most people with monkeypox will get a rash.
  • Some people have developed a rash before (or without) other symptoms.

Byrne says monkeypox is rarely fatal.

“If someone does contract monkeypox, many people don’t even have severe systems,” Byrne said.

If you have symptoms, visit your medical provider or a community clinic in Sedgwick County.

Byrne points out that prior to the 2022 outbreak, monkeypox had been reported in people in several central and western African countries. She says previously, almost all Monkeypox cases in people outside of Africa were linked to international travel to countries where the disease commonly occurs or through imported animals. She also pointed out that in 2003, 47 confirmed and probable cases of monkeypox were reported in six states — Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. All people infected with monkeypox in this outbreak became ill after having contact with pet prairie dogs. The outbreak began in Illinois, where an exotic animal vendor received a shipment of Gambian pouched rats and briefly housed them next to a prairie dog enclosure. 

For more information on monkeypox, visit the CDC’s website.