Jul 13, 2022 - News

How Washington state is responding to monkeypox

Total confirmed monkeypox cases, by state
Data: CDC; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Washington has the 12th highest number of confirmed monkeypox cases within the U.S., according to data from the CDC.

  • That's not entirely unexpected, since Washington is the state with the 13th largest population, per 2020 census data.
  • As of July 11, Washington's 19 reported cases were among 866 total nationwide.

Why it matters: Monkeypox won't bring the widespread death and suffering COVID-19 has, but public health experts say it could take hold without robust testing, vaccinations and communicating about the associated health risks, reports Axios' Arielle Dreher.

  • "Many of us are concerned it could only be a matter of time before it spreads more generally," Megan Ranney, academic dean at the Brown University School of Public Health, tells Axios.

State of play: Monkeypox is a virus that causes a rash and is rarely fatal. The strain circulating in the U.S. has largely been transmitted through intimate contact among men who have sex with men, but others can also become infected.

  • The actual case count is likely higher than the reported figure, as testing was first confined to public health laboratories and hard to access, similar to the beginning of the COVID pandemic.
  • The CDC last month began pushing out tests to five commercial labs to increase capacity.

Zoom in: In Seattle, the University of Washington Virology Laboratory announced this week it is now testing for monkeypox, helping public health officials track the spread.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Health is distributing a limited number of monkeypox vaccines, mainly to those who have had close contact with people who have been infected.

  • As of late last week, Washington state had been allotted 398 courses of the monkeypox vaccine from the federal government, and had distributed 272 of them.

What's next: Public health officials say the state won't begin holding vaccination clinics or preemptively inoculate people at high risk of exposure until more vaccines are supplied by the U.S. government.

  • More vaccine doses are expected to become available in late July or early August, according to the health department.

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