Health

Monkeypox Cases Are Rising in Houston

With cases in Texas steadily rising, learn how to protect yourself.

By Shelby Stewart

Monkeypox cases are on the rise in Houston. 

Read our original article, with frequently asked questions about monkeypox, below.

Update as of Wednesday, August 10

On August 4, the Biden administration declared the ongoing spread of monkeypox across the nation a public health emergency. In response, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has bolstered the effort to combat monkeypox, adding more urgency to the availability of vaccines. 

According to the HHS, the declaration aligns directly with the “Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) work to explore new strategies that could help get vaccines to affected communities across the country, including using a new dose-sparing approach that could increase the number of doses available, up to five-fold.”

In Texas, the number of cases reported has risen to 702 across the entire state, with some cities issuing emergency orders. Harris County Public Health reported the area’s case count at 223, as of Tuesday, August 9. Houston has yet to issue a similar emergency order, in hopes that the allocated 17,000 doses (see last week's update) arrive soon. 

Houston hopes to mitigate the effects of the vaccine shortage with a new plan for vaccinating those who are at high risk for exposure to the disease. By stretching the supply of the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine, health authorities can use what was formerly counted as one dose to treat five patients. 

For more information, call 832-393-4220 or visit the Houston Health Department's website.


 

Update as of 10:00 a.m., August 3

Last Thursday, July 28, the Houston Health Department placed a temporary pause on monkeypox vaccine appointments, as the department had a limited supply of the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine. 

Judge Lina Hidalgo and Mayor Sylvester Turner reached out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requesting more vaccines, and the Houston Health Department is slated to receive 17,000 more doses, but they have yet to become available to the public. 

“Those 17,000 vaccines that were allocated after last week’s request, they’ve not arrived yet,” Hidalgo said. “And when they do, they’re not enough. Harris County needs a substantial increase in the number of monkeypox vaccines, and we need those vaccines now.”

As of today, Houston currently has 125 confirmed monkeypox cases and roughly 250 vaccines left, according to a press conference held Tuesday. The number of cases in Houston has jumped exponentially since last week, with only 50 cases reported at the end of July. 

In a broader scope, in the past week monkeypox cases in Texas have similarly jumped, going from 183 confirmed cases to 338. According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, 72 percent of individuals infected with monkeypox are between the ages of 18 and 39. Of those cases reported, only six of them have affected women. 

For more information, call 832-393-4220 or visit the Houston Health Department's website.


 

Update as of July 26

On Saturday, July 23, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency over the monkeypox outbreak. The declaration marks the health organization's highest level of alert.

"Although I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern, for the moment this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a media briefing.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo stood alongside Mayor Sylvester Turner Monday for a press conference to discuss the growing number of cases in Houston, which currently sits at 47, with one patient hospitalized for pain. 

The State of Texas received roughly 15,000 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine, with 5,024 doses allocated to the Houston Health Department. KPRC reported that the health department has supplied "at least 135 vaccines to those who are at high risk" since the vaccines arrived. 

According to both Hidalgo and Turner, the threat level of monkeypox remains low, and the plan is to stay vigilant against the disease. 


 

Note: The introductory advice in this article was published on July 21, 2022.

The World Health Organization reported the first case of monkeypox in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and it is described as a “disease of global health importance.” It was first discovered in the United States in 2003, and the outbreak was linked to pet prairie dogs who were housed with Gambian pouched rats and dormice that were shipped to America via Ghana, leading to more than 70 cases in the US.

The novel disease has since resurfaced, with the first case reported in Massachusetts on May 18. Across the nation, there have been 1,972 reported cases, with 110 reported so far in Texas, according to the Department of State Health Services. KHOU confirmed the first case of monkeypox in a woman on Wednesday. In the Greater Houston area, there have been 34 disclosed reports of the disease. But Dr. David Persse, chief medical officer for the city of Houston, says the local numbers aren’t a true reflection of the disease’s spread. 

As cases near 2,000 in the US, learn more about monkeypox and how to fight against it. 

What is monkeypox? 

Monkeypox is caused by the monkeypox virus, which is transmitted to humans from animals. Symptoms associated with the disease parallel those of smallpox patients, but according to the WHO, the severity of monkeypox is much less. 

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

The CDC has described symptoms of monkeypox as fever, headache, muscle and back aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion. One of the more prominent symptoms is a rash that appears to be pimples or blisters that can appear on the face, inside the mouth, or on the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus. 

How does monkeypox spread?

Although monkeypox can spread in multiple ways, it has spread largely through direct contact with the skin or saliva of someone infected with the disease, specifically by contact with the rash or with scabs. Face-to-face contact by respiratory droplets can also transmit the disease. It hasn’t been proven that monkeypox can spread through sexual contact, but the DSHS has found that most of the Texas cases have involved male patients who’ve had sexual contact with other men. 

Prevention and treatment 

Currently, there’s no treatment for the monkeypox infection. The disease is similar to smallpox, so vaccines can mitigate the disease. But the best way to combat the virus is through prevention. The CDC recommends avoiding skin-to-skin contact with those who  have been infected, washing your hands with soap and water, and using hand sanitizer. 

How to fight back against monkeypox 

Wearing masks may have seemed a thing of the past, but monkeypox poses a true threat to public health and will require many residents to resume wearing them again. 

DSHS reports that there are 20,000 doses of vaccine available to local health departments, but the doses are only available at each local department’s request. For Texas residents at this time, the vaccine is made available only to those who have been exposed to the disease. 

 

 

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