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WHO declares monkeypox international public health emergency, state cases remain low

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Monkeypox-The Next STD

This 2003 electron microscope image shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin.

The World Health Organization Saturday upgraded monkeypox to a public health emergency of international concern.

The announcement comes after WHO held a second emergency committee meeting July 21, following an initial discussion about severity a month ago. 

As of Friday, the U.S. had recorded 2,891 cases, with two children diagnosed with the disease. One youth patient was identified as a toddler living in California, and the other a baby who is not a U.S. resident.

The majority of national cases have been reported among gay and bisexual men, or men who have sex with men. Monkeypox is spread through sustained skin to skin contact or bodily secretions. Children, the CDC says, could contract the illness via "holding, cuddling, feeding, as well as through shared items such as towels, bedding, cups and utensils."

On a global level as of June 20, the most recent data from the CDC, 16,836 infections have been reported. Wisconsin remains at six but neighboring Illinois has reached 238 cases and Minnesota has confirmed 19. New York has by far the most cases at 900. 

Megan Meller, infectious disease expert at Gundersen Health System, in an interview with the Tribune earlier this week stated area cases are expected to rise, especially as testing increases. All cases of monkeypox will present symptoms, Meller says, including flu-like symptoms that manifest into a rash -- which may appear similar to those resulting from other STIs -- followed by pus filled blisters. 

Both Gundersen and Mayo Clinic Health System can administer tests for monkeypox at their facilities, which the samples sent to labs -- the closest being Mayo Clinic Rochester -- for analyzing. Vaccines for positive patients are available through the La Crosse County Health Department.  

Most cases of monkeypox are mild and subside within a few weeks. However, those who develop rashes in the anal or genital area may experience intense pain when using the bathroom, and there can be permanent scarring. According to WHO, monkeypox has a fatality rate of between 1% and 11%, dependent on the strain, with increased risk among the immunocompromised.

Persons who develop symptoms are advised to practice abstinence until they are tested, and if infected abstain until they are fully recovered. 

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