TOPEKA, (KSNT)— Monkeypox, a rare disease usually occurring in West and Central Africa, is spreading to some states in the U.S.
In Kansas, no cases have been detected yet, but a spokesman for the state’s health department, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, told Kansas Capitol Bureau that plans to train healthcare providers on identifying and treating the disease are underway.
“KDHE is communicating with health care providers as information becomes available through CDC. We are also planning a training webinar for providers that will discuss identification and treatment. Any provider who suspects a case of monkeypox should contact the KDHE Epidemiology Hotline.”Matthew Lara, KDHE spokesman
The silent spread of the virus is prompting contact tracing efforts in neighboring states, like Colorado, where a case was recently identified. While health experts say the virus is not a cause for fear, they are encouraging people to be aware of the symptoms and how to prevent it.
Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease specialist with the University of Kansas Medical Center said that while the virus is not as severe as the coronavirus, it can take a toll on people who are immunocompromised. Hawkinson said, overall, anyone could be at risk of getting the disease.
“We have to understand, anybody can get this disease…it is obtained by people who have the disease,” Hawkinson said.
Unlike coronavirus, the virus spreads primarily through direct contact with a person infected with the virus, contaminated materials or even an infected animal.
In 2003, Kansas was one of six states in the U.S. impacted by an outbreak of Monkeypox. All people infected during the outbreak came into contact with pet prairie dogs. The pets were infected after living near small animals imported from Ghana.
At the time, lab testing and smallpox vaccines were used to prevent the virus from spreading. Since the U.S. already has certain preventative measures in place, Hawkinson said the country may be able to respond and contain the disease quickly.
“I believe the process will be an offering of the smallpox vaccine… we know that has been done in Nigeria… we know that has been done before in the United States,” Hawkinson said. “Vaccination will continue to have a preventative activity even up to four days after the exposure.”