There are currently 80 cases of monkeypox reported in Texas, across several cities. The virus causes fever and painful blisters or pimples. It’s transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and can infect anyone.
Orion Rummler, a reporter for The 19th News spoke to Texas Standard about what Texans should know about the spread of monkeypox. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: Tell us a little bit more about how transmissible monkeypox is? The CDC is reporting there are nearly 2000 monkeypox cases in the U.S. but I understand the virus has been in the U.S. for a couple of months now.
Orion Rummler: Right. So the first case was May 18 in Massachusetts. And this is actually not typically a highly transmissible infection that doesn’t usually spread very easily between people. Especially not compared to COVID-19 which is I think is how our brains have been rewired to compare everything.
Well, tell us more about how the virus has spread in the first place?
As a direct skin-to-skin contact of the rash lesions, scabs or body fluids during sex or just through kissing or cuddling, or by touching clothing or sharing sex toys or sheets that have also made contact with exposed skin rashes. This can affect anyone. A lot of these cases that we’ve tracked so far are passed on during intercourse, but it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what skin-to-skin contact occurred during that intercourse. And health officials are still looking into whether monkeypox can be spread directly through semen or vaginal fluids or fecal matter.
You write that the virus is disproportionately affecting gay and bisexual men in the U.S. Why is that?
So from what I’ve seen in my reporting, there’s not a definitive answer, at least that I’m comfortable giving. But what the CDC has said and what experts I’ve spoken with have said is that this is the social group of gay and bisexual men that just happened to be the first to contract the virus in Europe and then spread through international travel. Although international travel is no longer a theme we’re seeing in the broader U.S. spread right now. They’ve emphasized that it could have been any social group and it’s likely not going to remain just among the social group, especially the spread goes unchecked and not enough vaccines are put out.
Well, how serious are monkeypox infections? I have read in one place. Someone saying that his experience with monkeypox was worse than COVID-19. I’ve read other accounts that say it didn’t seem to be that serious, just a real bad inconvenience. Could you explain what doctors are saying?
Right. So infections with this trade of monkeypox are rarely going to be fatal. No deaths have been reported in the U.S. and monkeypox cases usually resolve without specific treatment. But like you mentioned, symptoms can include really painful lesions, especially if the lesions occur in the genital area or in other really private areas. The pain can be really severe and that’s when you want to try and seek treatment. And the pain can also require hospitalization in a few cases.
What about the health care response, the official healthcare response to the virus? What’s happening at the federal and state, local level?
So the Biden administration has pledged to distribute more of the genius to those vaccines. And there’s now commercial testing from LabCorp. And that matters because the testing process was way more cumbersome. Local and state-level clinics have been waiting for more vaccine supplies. And I mean, in cities like D.C. and New York City, they just haven’t been able to keep up with appointment demand at all. And in D.C., they’ve just created a vaccine preregistration portal because there just wasn’t enough supplies to get everyone vaccinated. And I did see as of July 12, Texas has only received 726 doses. And it’s a two-dose vaccine, remember? So that’s two for everybody.