Central Shenandoah Health District prepares to distribute monkeypox vaccines in coming weeks

Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 2:41 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Virginia has more than 200 cases of monkeypox. Most are in northern Virginia, while the northwest region, which includes the Shenandoah Valley, reports nine cases.

The Central Shenandoah Health District wants you to be aware of the symptoms and help slow the spread. Last week, it launched a monkeypox vaccine interest survey to determine the need and who is most at risk. The vaccine supply is still limited at this time.

“Filling out this survey is a way for us to gauge what kind of care we need to provide in our health district,” Jordi Shelton, with the CSHD, said. “It’s not necessarily a guarantee that once you fill it out, you’ll receive a vaccine, so that’s something for people to keep in mind as well.”

Neighboring Blue Ridge Health District received 90 doses of monkeypox vaccines. Nearly 75 vaccines already went to those deemed to be at intermediate or high risk of exposure. Vaccines in the CSHD will start being distributed in the coming weeks.

“We’re dealing with that limited supply but there’s also not a recommendation for widespread vaccination,” Shelton said.

The CSHD recommends vaccination for persons who meet any of the following criteria:

  • Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men and have had multiple (e.g. more than 1) or anonymous sexual partners within the last 14 days; OR
  • Transgender women and nonbinary persons assigned male at birth who have sex with men and have had multiple (e.g. more than 1) or anonymous sexual partners within the last 14 days; OR
  • Sex workers (of any orientation or gender) within the last 14 days; OR
  • Staff (of any orientation or gender) at establishments where sexual activity occurs (e.g. bathhouses, sex clubs) within the last 14 days; OR
  • Persons (of any orientation or gender) who attend sex-on-premises venues (e.g. bathhouses, sex clubs) within the last 14 days.

Shelton said it can take several weeks for monkeypox symptoms to appear.

“Classically described monkeypox typically begins with fever, chills, fatigue, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and then after a few days, that distinctive rash typically appears,” she said. “Typically it will begin on the face.”

Dr. Melissa Viray, with the Richmond-Henrico Health District, said monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease or infection. While monkeypox is spread through sexual contact it is not transmitted like other STDs or STIs.

“Right now we’re seeing transmission in a particular group of folks that does not mean that folks who aren’t in that group are not at risk at all but that’s not what we’re seeing in transmission right now,” Dr. Viray said.

If you have a new rash, illness, or have been in close contact with someone exposed to monkeypox, Shelton suggests that you stay home and contact your health provider.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, anyone can get and spread monkeypox; however, it is spread by close contact with an infected person. Close contact includes touching skin lesions, bodily fluids, or clothing or linens that have been in contact with an infected person. Spread can also occur during prolonged, face-to-face contact.

To complete the CSHD’s Monkeypox Vaccine Interest Form, click here. For more information on monkeypox from VDH, click here.

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