Maryland Residents Need To Take Precautions To Avoid Contracting Monkeypox

Monkeypox | Photo from CDC

State officials say there are not enough vaccines against this virus.

Annapolis, Md. (KM) – Maryland has access to 3,202 does of the monkeypox vaccine so residents must take precautions to avoid contracting the disease. That’s according to Dr. Peter DeMartino, the Director of Infectious Disease Prevention with the Health Services Bureau of the Maryland Department of Health.

“We want to make sure that Marylanders know the symptoms, understand what behaviors can put them at risk, that they seek care if they’re experiencing any symptoms, and they definitely get tested if they have any symptoms,” Dr. DeMartino sdays.

He says the symptoms of monkeypox include fever, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes often followed by a rash and lesions . If you have any of these symptoms, or think you might have this virus, Dr. DeMartino says you should speak with your health care provider to get tested, and–if the test is positive–get into treatment.

Governor Larry Hogan, in a statement, says the state has been mounted “an aggressive response:” since the first case of monkeypox was detected in the state on June 16th, 2022. He says the state is asking for additional supply of  vaccines against this virus.

In the meantime, the Governor says those given priority for the few vaccines available are known close contacts identified by public health investigations, and healthcare workers who have been exposed  to a known case of monkeypox, and laboratory staff working directly with monkeypox testing.

Dr. DeMartino says the monkeypox virus is spread through prolonged skin to skin contact. “In this outbreak, worldwide,  men who have sex with men are really the bulk of diagnoses,” he says. “But you’re right to say it’s certainly not limited to gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men.”

“Sexual orientation on its own is not a risk factor. Skin-to-skin contact is,:” Dr. DeMartino continues. “Casual contact is not a risk, and we certainly don’t to put this on  a whole group of people, all of whom may not have had that skin-to-skin risk.”

He says shaking hands or casually  hugging are not risks for contracting monkeypox. “We’re really talking prolonged skin-to-skin contact, cuddling, kissing, other activities  around that are usually sexually associated,’ says Dr. DeMartino.

As of Wednesday, the State Department of Health says there have been 149 cases of monkeypox in Maryland. Dr. DeMartino says that statistic hasn’t been broken down into a county or jurisdiction. “We’re not releasing data by jurisdiction yet just to make sure that we are maintaining  patient privacy. With 149 cases, and 24 local health jurisdictions, we want to make sure that we are maintaining patient privacy around that,” he says.

By Kevin McManus