By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A virus similar to smallpox has been detected in the United States, but there is no way to predict whether the illness will spread to Wyoming, according to the state’s public health officer.
Health officer and epidemiologist Dr. Alexia Harrist told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that it was difficult to say whether the spread of monkeypox was a cause for major concern as of yet.
“It’s too early to say at this point,” she said. “It will probably be a rapid learning process with this, but I think we’ll discover more in the coming days.”
According to the World Health Organization, the United States has from one to five confirmed cases of monkeypox, which typically occurs in central and west Africa.
Harrist explained that the virus typically causes symptoms such as a headache, fever and muscle aches, but also is accompanied by a distinct rash. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the symptoms are similar to, but milder than, smallpox.
Harrist said the illness has been traditionally associated with people who have traveled to Africa and caught it. However, the newest outbreak has seen symptoms popping up among gay and bisexual men.
“In the United States, it has been reported some individuals in these clusters have self-reported as men who have sex with men, but this is not all of the cases,” she said. “It’s not something easily spread as COVID. The main way it spreads is through skin-to-skin contact.”
Harrist said typically, people who have caught the virus will develop symptoms within a week or two, but she said the time can also range anywhere from five to 21 days.
She added that a monkeypox risk to the general public at this time was relatively low in the United States, but recommended that anyone who has recently traveled out of the country or had contact with someone diagnosed with monkeypox should speak with their health care provider.
Monkeypox can kill as many as 1 in 10 people who contract the disease, based on observations in Africa, according to the CDC.
According to WHO officials, the vaccine used to prevent smallpox appears to be about 85% effective in guarding against monkeypox, based on observational research in Africa.