By Guy Page
A Franklin County adult is the first identified Vermont case of human monkeypox virus infection, or hMPXV, in Vermont, according to a July 29 statement by the UVM Medical Center.
Before Friday’s announcement, Vermont was one of three states with no reported monkeypox infections – the other two are Montana and Wyoming. New York is the only state with more than 1000 cases. As of today, there are 5,189 monkeypox infections in the U.S. – the most of any nation, with Germany and Brazil among the other leaders. The global total is 22,485 – with only seven of those cases in African countries that have historically reported monkeypox.
The patient is at home recovering under the supervision of their UVMMC physician, in coordination with the Vermont Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Confirmatory testing is being performed at the CDC. Monkeypox is a highly survivable disease, health experts say.
At UVMMC, a multidisciplinary team has been coordinating preparedness for Monkeypox, and will continue to work with the Vermont Department of Health and CDC.
“We knew this virus would come to Vermont, as it came to neighboring states, and we are prepared to provide high-quality care to our community,” said Stephen Leffler, MD, President and Chief Operating Officer of the UVMMC. “By staying informed, following expert advice and seeking care when needed, we can keep ourselves and each other safe.”
UVM Medical Center infectious disease experts reminded Vermonters that human monkeypox virus is transmitted through very close, often skin-to-skin contact, including through sex.
“Anyone can be infected, but brief, non-intimate exposures are very unlikely to transmit the virus. Monkeypox can be acquired by all people, regardless of any dimension of diversity including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, and sexual orientation,” UVMMC said.
It is also true that to date almost all monkeypox victims are gay men, as shown in the New England Journal of Medicine. “We report 528 infections diagnosed between April 27 and June 24, 2022, at 43 sites in 16 countries. Overall, 98% of the persons with infection were gay or bisexual men, 75% were White, and 41% had human immunodeficiency virus infection; the median age was 38 years. Transmission was suspected to have occurred through sexual activity in 95% of the persons with infection,” the New England Journal of Medicine reported July 21.
Testing is available, as well as a safe and effective vaccine for those with known exposure to a case or who are otherwise at very high risk for exposure. People with fever and rash should contact their health care provider for guidance. They should also isolate from others if they can to avoid transmission in the meantime. Those without a provider or insurance can call 2-1-1 to be connected to services.
For more information, visit: healthvermont.gov/hMPXV.
Contracting monkeypox – According to a CNN report, the CDC says most of the cases involve men having sex with men. However, the CDC also states that monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including:
- Direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox.
- Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
- Contact with respiratory secretions.
- This direct contact can happen during intimate contact, including:
- Oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) of a person with monkeypox.
- Hugging, massage, and kissing.
- Prolonged face-to-face contact.
- Touching fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with monkeypox and that have not been disinfected, such as bedding, towels, fetish gear, and sex toys.
- A pregnant person can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta.
- Animal-to-human contact.
Monkeypox treatment – The CDC says there are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections. However, monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, which means that antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections.
Antivirals, such as tecovirimat (TPOXX), may be recommended for people who are more likely to get severely ill, like patients with weakened immune systems.
Monkeypox vaccine – The Department of Health is offering vaccine on a “case by case basis,” its website says. According to a Vermont Public (formerly Vermont Public Radio) news report, a nationwide shortage of vaccine means that Vermont is allocated just 426 doses, and has received just 86 – which are being reserved for health care workers and people exposed to a confirmed case. Therefore some Vermonters are trying to obtain vaccine from Canada.
This news story includes content from UVMMC and CDC statements.