July 1, 2022
Health officials cite need for awareness, prompt care as more monkeypox cases identified in state
The Minnesota Department of Health today identified additional cases of monkeypox virus in Minnesota residents, for a total of six cases.
All of the cases are identified in adults who live in the Twin Cities area. All people with cases thus far have had a history of travel (including domestic travel) or direct contact with someone who traveled recently, but health officials expect that cases due to community spread could be identified soon, as other areas outside of Minnesota have noted spread within their communities. None of the Minnesotans with cases are currently hospitalized and all are receiving medical care and recovering.
While Minnesota’s case numbers are currently low, state health officials believe not all patients with monkeypox have sought testing or assessment by a health care provider and they are concerned that the number of infections could grow rapidly unless people who are at risk for monkeypox take steps to protect themselves, recognize when they may be infected, and seek medical care promptly if they are.
“It’s clear that monkeypox has come to Minnesota,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said. “While our current cases are associated with travel outside Minnesota, we expect we will soon see cases among people that have no travel history or contact with someone who did, indicating that spread within social networks in Minnesota is occurring. We also think that many people with cases nationally are not seeking medical attention and that the number of people experiencing monkeypox is higher than the reported cases. We want to make sure that at-risk Minnesotans and their health care providers are informed about monkeypox – how it spreads, what the symptoms are and how to prevent its spread.”
The virus is spread by close contact, typically skin-to-skin contact with rash, scabs or body fluids or contact with materials that have been contaminated with rash, scabs or body fluids, such as clothing or bedding, or prolonged face-to-face contact. Monkeypox is less infectious than other diseases like COVID-19, measles, chickenpox and influenza; however, it can be easily spread by contact with the skin lesions.
People with monkeypox are sick for about two to four weeks and can spread the virus until their rash is completely healed, meaning until the scabs fall off and new skin appears.
Monkeypox usually starts with symptoms like fever, headache, sore throat, swollen glands and fatigue, followed by a rash, but not everyone with monkeypox has these symptoms. Some will have only a rash. In some people, sores will start on the tongue or in the mouth.
The rash can look like pimples or blisters and may spread to multiple parts of the body or stay in one area (see CDC Monkeypox Signs and Symptoms). Monkeypox rash may look like many other rashes, including syphilis or herpes, particularly when present in the genital area. While monkeypox is not transmitted sexually, some patients have had infections with syphilis or herpes and monkeypox at the same time. Talk to a health care provider if you have a new rash or other concerning symptoms, especially if you have been in contact with someone who has had a rash.
“Monkeypox can sometimes be mistaken for sexually transmitted diseases, like syphilis or herpes, so it’s important that health care providers consider multiple infections and try to learn as much as possible from their patients about their potential contacts within the last 21 days with someone who may have had monkeypox,” Lynfield said. “Being able to identify cases and their contacts early is important for providing appropriate treatment for the person and prevention for high-risk contacts, including post-exposure vaccination. This can greatly help to reduce the spread of the virus.”
Anyone can get monkeypox if they have close, sustained contact with someone who is infected with monkeypox. This can include skin-to-skin contact and during sexual activity. In the current global outbreak, we are seeing a high proportion, although not all cases, that are occurring among people who identify as gay and bisexual men. “It’s important for people who are at higher risk to be aware of the potential for exposure and to take steps to reduce their risk of infection,” Lynfield reiterated.
Most people with monkeypox get better on their own, and the illness usually lasts from two to four weeks. However, sometimes monkeypox can cause severe illness, including pneumonia or sepsis and, depending on where it is located, there may be complications, such as blindness if lesions are in the eye. If in the rectal area, there can be severe pain and some people can have scars from the skin sores.
For those who do have severe illness or are at risk for severe illness (for example, people with weakened immune systems), or people who certain skin conditions or other complications, antiviral medications that were developed for smallpox may be used for treatment under a special protocol through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.