The Cincinnati Health Department is reporting the first likely cases of monkeypox in the city.
The CHD confirmed to CityBeat that two cases were reported to the department as positive by a commercial lab. The department said the patients sought evaluation from their health care providers after developing a new rash. Both patients were advised to isolate at home until their rash healed and they were no longer infectious.
Specimens from both cases are being forwarded to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further confirmation.
The CDC’s case map shows 17 reported cases of monkeypox in Ohio, six in Kentucky, 33 in Indiana and 3,591 country-wide.
The World Health Organization named monkeypox as a public health emergency on July 23, meaning the WHO views the outbreak as needing a unified global response to stop the spread.
What monkeypox feels like
Monkeypox is a rare but mild viral illness that is very rarely deadly, according to the CDC. It is most commonly identified by a rash that can look like pimples or blisters that can appear anywhere on the body. Those infected with the virus may also experience fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes or exhaustion. In typical cases, the illness lasts two to four weeks.
How it spreads
The illness has developed a stigma for being transmitted sexually, particularly between gay men, but the CDC says the illness is transmitted through close contact by anyone, no matter their age, sex or gender.
According to the CDC, Monkeypox in known to spread in these different ways:
- Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids.
- Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling or sex
- Touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids.
- Pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta.
The CDC says it is not known if monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids. Still, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said social media has caused the virus to be perceived as a “gay disease.”
“Unfortunately, it’s mostly stigma,” the school wrote on Instagram. “An outbreak could have just as easily occurred in any congregate setting.”
A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found 98% of people diagnosed with the virus between April and June in more than a dozen countries identify as gay or bisexual men. The WHO says 99% of monkeypox cases in the United States are related to “male-to-male sexual contact.”
While the CDC says monkeypox is transmitted only by close contact and is not a sexually transmitted infection, that didn’t stop GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from calling it exactly that on July 23, tweeting: “If Monkeypox is a sexually transmitted disease, why are kids getting it?”
If Monkeypox is a sexually transmitted disease, why are kids getting it? pic.twitter.com/mvgSlxZ0Pp
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) July 23, 2022
Greene’s tweet was called out by Alejandra Caraballo, an attorney and clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic. She said the homophobic misinformation in Greene’s tweet could result in violence against LGBTQ+ people.
“Now we have sitting members of congress making a false connection between monkeypox and child sexual abuse,” Caraballo wrote on Twitter. “This is so incredibly dangerous and will result in violence against LGBTQ people. Monkeypox is not a STI.”
Now we have sitting members of congress making a false connection between monkeypox and child sexual abuse. This is so incredibly dangerous and will result in violence against LGBTQ people.
Monkeypox is not a STI. pic.twitter.com/fIu3hEazn7
— Alejandra Caraballo (@Esqueer_) July 24, 2022
At a July 26 briefing, White House adviser Dr. Ashish Jha urged people not to “use this moment to propagate homophobic or transphobic messaging.”
White House adviser Dr. Ashish Jha on monkeypox: “I think very clear at this point that the community most affected is the LGBTQ community. […] It’s really important that we do not use this moment to propagate homophobic or transphobic messaging, […] stick to the science.” pic.twitter.com/xTr22b8yHl
— The Hill (@thehill) July 26, 2022
Because the CDC says monkeypox is spread by close contact, the organization still recommends avoiding sex if you or your partner appear to be sick or have a rash.
Treatment for monkeypox is similar to treatment for smallpox, according to the CDC. Antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections.