Monkeypox has made its way to the Finger Lakes. And it comes with a history, as explained by Dr. Daniela DiMarco, an assistant professor of medicine in the infectious diseases division at the University of Rochester.
“Monkeypox was first identified I believe in the 1950s in a group of research monkeys or lab monkeys, thus the name monkeypox,” Dr. DiMarco said.
Infectious diseases experts at URMC explain Monkeypox (video)
Dr. DiMarco says Monkeypox is a viral infection that is very similar to Smallpox, and there’s a vaccine to prevent it.
“We’ve had an outbreak of Monkeypox going no that started overseas and now we’re seeing it in the United States as well and New York State has quite a few cases,” Dr. DiMarco said.
Confirmed cases in the Finger Lakes
Quite a few, as of Tuesday, July 19, the New York State Department of Health says there are a total of 679 confirmed cases in New York State. Most of them are in New York City, although two are nearby in Erie County, one is in Tompkins County, and four are in Monroe County.
More: Tompkins County: First case of monkeypox identified
Ontario County Health Department keeping a close eye on outbreak
None yet, though, in Ontario County, as explained by Mary Beer, the public health director.
Regardless, Beer says, her department is paying attention.
“We monitor our lab reports every single day so if we do get a positive case then our communicable diseases nurse would investigate the case and find out who they may have been in contact with so that we could get those individuals vaccinated,” Beer said.
DiMarco says this strain of Monkeypox healthcare professionals are seeing with the current outbreak is rarely fatal and it doesn’t commonly require hospitalization.
Doctors: Anyone can contract Monkeypox
“In the current outbreak cases have predominantly but not exclusively been among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with other men, including those who are transgender and non-binary due to really the social network and patterns of exposure,” Dr. DiMarco said. “But anyone can get monkeypox so it’s very important, regardless of sexual orientation or gender, not to create any additional stigma by just focusing on one population.”
DiMarco explains the virus can be transmitted by body fluid exchange, like kissing, sexual intercourse, prolonged face-to-face contact, skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the virus, and through fabrics.
And it can be painful.
“Rash, different types of skin lesions, you can get ulcers which sort of is similar to something like a sore and this can be on your skin, in different places on the body, can definitely be in the genital area, can also be on the hands, can be in the mouth,” Dr. DiMarco said. “They can look like different sexually transmitted infections and can be mistaken for that.”
If you’ve been exposed to Mokeypox, or you have a rash, DiMarco says you should contact your health care provider right away.
Rebecca is a veteran multimedia journalist serving as one of our core reporters in the Finger Lakes region. She is responsible for telling stories that matter to every day Upstate New Yorkers. Have a question or lead? Send it to [email protected].