While the disease is not often deadly, health authorities are warning Travis County residents to avoid contact with individual infected or exposed to the disease. (Courtesy Cynthia S. Goldsmith and Russell Regnery via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Austin Public Health advises residents to take precautions as monkeypox cases rise

in Austin Public Health.’s first press conference monkeypoxIn Austin, health leaders have warned that infections are no longer just linked to travel, but can be picked up within the community.

As of July 14, nine cases have been confirmed in Travis County, while eight more are presumed.

“Monkeypox is a disease-causing virus in our community of growing concern,” said Dr. Desmar Walks, of Travis County Health Authority.

Monkeypox is spread by contact with bodily fluids, which can include sex, touching skin lesions, or touching objects that have been infected, according to Walks. Symptoms include a blister-like rash, fever, and chills.

Wax said the illness usually lasts about 21 days.

Dr. Kristen Mundy, chair of the division of infectious diseases at Texas Dell University School of Medicine, provided some examples of how infection can spread, including through sharing utensils and drinks, skin contact, splashing bodily fluids on another person or touching the bedding of an infected person.

She said infected people can exacerbate their infection by touching the lesions and then touching other parts of their body, such as rubbing their eyes or putting on contact lenses.

Mundy said anyone cleaning contaminated surfaces should wear a mask, gloves and eye protection.

Monkeypox can remain at the surface for up to 15 days after exposure, Woolks said.

According to Mundi, monkeypox has two subspecies – West Africa and Central Africa. She said the West African strain that is prevalent in the United States is the milder of the two.

She said only 1% of those infected die.

Mundy said the illness caused by the infection can be more severe for children under age 8, pregnant women and those who are immunocompromised. Mundy said the infection can pass from a pregnant woman to her fetus and cause a miscarriage.

Mundy said the condition can be more severe if the level of exposure is higher or depending on the area of ​​the rash. Some of the examples I gave include individuals who have had infections in their mouths who may be at risk of developing conditions such as pneumonia, or extreme cases may have difficulty eating.

APH director, Dr. Adrienne Sturrup, said individuals need to take precautions by understanding the health history of someone they have sex with.

Mundy said sufferers have a responsibility to treat their lesions as contagious until there is complete recovery — which can take several weeks — and to use condoms for 12 weeks after infection.

APH does not offer comprehensive testing opportunities, but it works with the state to test on a case-by-case basis. At this time, vaccinations are only offered to those who have been in close contact with an infected person.

Monkeypox has nothing to do with chickenpox, Mundy said, so a previous chickenpox infection does not affect a person’s risk of monkeypox. However, it is possible for a person who received the smallpox vaccine to have some immunity to the infection depending on how long the vaccine was given.

Wax said testing and vaccination efforts could be stepped up if the spread increased.

Dr. Michael Stefanovic, director of sexual health at Community Care, said it’s important to understand that while the disease has a disproportionate impact on gay and bisexual men, it is not limited to the LGBTQ community.

“Monkeypox is not a disease that spreads in the gay community,” Stefanovic said.

Williamson County announced its first presumptive case of monkeypox on July 14.

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