As of Aug. 8, 155 local cases of monkeypox have been reported by Public Health – Seattle & King County, with the number of cases doubling approximately every week during the current outbreak.
Dr. Shireesha Dhanireddy, a professor of medicine at University of Washington School of Medicine, says people who believe they’ve been exposed to, or have symptoms of monkeypox should contact their healthcare provider immediately for an evaluation.
“If there is a concern or a need for treatment, we do have options for referrals for treatment,” said Dhanireddy. “Call your provider, message your clinic, let them know you’re concerned about monkeypox so that they can let you know about the proper precautions to take before coming into the clinic.”
When asked how the current monkeypox outbreak compares to the surges of COVID-19, Dhanireddy said there are some key, important differences.
“COVID is highly transmissible in a way that monkeypox is not. And not to say that monkeypox isn’t transmissible—the type of contact and the type of exposure is quite different. For COVID, you go to a public event, chatting at a restaurant, eating at a restaurant—those are exposures. That’s not the type of exposure we’re talking about here with monkeypox, we’re talking about much more intimate exposures, definitive contact exposures. So, it’s very different.”
Results for monkeypox tests performed at UW Medicine are typically available within 24 hours.
How is monkeypox transmitted?
Dhanireddy: We think it’s transmitted by close contact, intimate contact—so sexual contact, skin-on-skin contact, kissing, open mouth kissing in particular. So those types of exposures are what we’re seeing when we’ve talked to people who have monkeypox that talk about their risk.
Who is at the greatest risk of contracting monkeypox?
Dhanireddy: Right now, it appears to be that people who have had close contact with someone with confirmed monkeypox or lesions: skin-on-skin or sexual contact. And so, if you are in a venue where there’s a lot more potential exposure, where there’s a lot of skin-on-skin contact—some of the initial outbreaks in the U.K. were at a rave dance parties where people were shirtless, not fully dressed, that had skin-on-skin contact with multiple individuals, or sexual contact with multiple individuals, that increased their risk of exposure and acquisition.
Are there other individuals who should be concerned?
Dhanireddy: There are certain individuals who may be at higher risk if they have immune-compromising conditions. So, if their immune system is not as strong for whatever reason related to underlying diseases, or medications they’re on. And pregnancy is also a relatively immunocompromised state, so those individuals may be at higher risk for getting more severe disease. That said, this type of monkeypox virus, this clade, is associated with less mortality—which is good, and most individuals have self-limited disease.
When should I seek out testing/treatment for monkeypox?
Dhanireddy: Many individuals have self-limited disease, but if you have painful lesions or if you have multiple lesions throughout your body and are experiencing systemic symptoms, it is worthwhile to discuss with your provider about getting tested for monkeypox first; and then, if that’s positive, to get a referral for treatments if you meet one of those conditions like pain or numerous lesions.
Visit uwmedicine.org/monkeypox for more information.