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How Arkansas health officials are preparing for monkeypox

In less than a month, a new monkeypox outbreak has spread rapidly across the world. It's now in the United States, which has Arkansas health officials on alert.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — On May 5, the World Health Organization (WHO) learned of a monkeypox case in the United Kingdom. 

This case itself was unique as it was not related to any travel that would normally indicate an infection of monkeypox.

Fast forward and there are 143 cases in 13 countries as of Friday. 

Of those countries, currently Europe has been hit hardest, with Spain looking into the possibility of a super-spreader event infecting dozens of people.

As for America, well the United States currently has two cases under investigation. The first case being in Massachusetts, while the other is a New Yorker whose test results came back just hours ago from the city's lab.

Patients in this outbreak have not had any travel linked to Africa where monkeypox is native to wild animals.

Now, Arkansas health officials are preparing in case the virus spreads to the Natural State.

"We're not making the connections in the UK and some of the other countries where it's been seen. So, that is what's more puzzling and a little more concerning," said Dr. Joel Tumlison with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).

Monkeypox is a virus that causes lesions or pox on the skin and is contagious through close contact, and occasionally through breathing.

"The main way it's spread is through close contact, I mean direct physical touching. Skin-to-skin contact with someone who has it or is developing it," said Dr. Tumlison.

Symptoms of the virus include legions which will show up as a sores on the skin, similar to chicken pox. Other symptoms can include fever, lethargy, and muscle aches.

There have been no cases under investigation in Arkansas, but the Arkansas Department of Health has prepared a response plan if one pops up. 

ADH will begin contact tracing of individuals who were near the infected person. 

"Give them precautions, make sure they are still well, not having symptoms, give them a few precautions to avoid and monitor them regularly to make sure they are not developing the disease," said Dr. Tumlison.

If an Arkansan needs to be treated, ADH will request antivirals or vaccines from the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile.

So should you be on high alert for this virus? ADH said not necessarily, but be aware of any symptoms that arise. 

"What's the right thing to do if you think that's a rash that might be it? Talk to your doctor, talk to your healthcare provider. Give them a call say, 'Hey I'm a little worried about this.' They can talk you through it to see if you have any of the exposure risk factors," said Dr. Tumlison.

    

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