As students come back to Pullman, public health officials worry that monkeypox has come with them.
“We did see it arrive here in Washington State, and that case rate has been doubling every seven to eight days,” said Chris Skidmore, Director of Whitman County Public Health.
“It is a disease of concern here and I anticipate that we will have some cases here in Whitman County at some point.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease is recognizable by the rashes and lesions it causes. Flu-like symptoms may also appear with a monkeypox infection.
The virus is transmitted through direct, skin-to-skin contact with someone who is symptomatic, the CDC says. It can also live on surfaces, and objects touched by someone infected.
Intimate contact, such as kissing or having sex, can also spread the virus – a point of concern for officials in a college town.
“That population is quite a bit more sexually active than other populations,” Skidmore said. “That sexual contact has been one of the main roots of transmission for monkeypox.”
So what happens if you develop a rash, fever or other monkeypox symptoms? Officials say you’ll want to get seen at Cougar Health Services or another healthcare provider.
“If someone is symptomatic, we ask that they reach out to their primary care provider and get tested,” Skidmore said. “Isolate and quarantine yourself until you get the results of those tests back.”
Currently, only certain people are eligible to get vaccinated against the disease because of limited vaccine supplies. Only three locations in the county have some vaccines available, but the county expects to receive more stock soon to distribute to additional providers.
In the meantime, people can keep themselves safe by avoiding skin to skin contact with others, washing their hands often, reducing the number of intimate partners they have and being transparent with those they’re intimate with.
“Talk to your partner about new or unexplained sores or rashes on your body or your partner’s body,” Skidmore said.
More information on monkeypox can be found at Whitman County Public Health’s website or by calling (509) 397-6280.