There are now a dozen monkeypox cases in Connecticut and the state Department of Public Health is trying to raise awareness specifically among the population of men who have sex with men.
While it’s not a sexually transmitted disease, monkeypox has hit the gay and bisexual communities the hardest.
Department of Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani said the general population should be aware of the disease and women can also be infected because it’s transmitted through open sores.
However, “the risk to the general population is low at this time,” Juthani said during a virtual press briefing Friday. “I don’t want the general public to be alarmed but on the other hand we need to be aware.”
She said if exposure to the virus is identified in the first four days, infection can be prevented with the vaccine. The state is identifying cases and doing contact tracing.
When it comes to outreach the state is trying to raise awareness through agencies like Planned Parenthood and HIV clinics that helped groups during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.
“Our efforts right now are focused on those communities first,” Juthani said.
Monkeypox typically lasts two to four weeks. The sores associated with the virus usually heal within the two or four week period.
“There is no shame in this. I want people to feel comfortable to go to their providers,” Juthani said. “To go and seek out medical attention, to go get tested, so you can get the care you need and we can help protect those you have exposed.”
She said two of the 12 cases in Connecticut required hospitalization. All of the cases have been in men between the ages of 20 and 50.
“We don’t know of any deaths that have occurred from monkeypox in the United States,” Juthani said. “Hospitalizations are rare when they have occurred.”
The state lab is currently doing testing, but there are also four other commercial labs that can do up to 10,000 tests per week. It takes around three days to get results.
But she also warned that testing is not free. Insurance may cover some of the cost, but for the uninsured she’s not certain how much the labs will charge for the tests.
For more information, visit the Department of Public Health’s monkeypox website.