ARKANSAS, USA — The World Health Organization announced Monday (Nov. 28) they are renaming the monkeypox virus to mpox. They say the name monkeypox is a decades-old animal disease and could be construed as discriminatory and racist.
The first Arkansas case of mpox was discovered in July. Four months later our state has seen a total of 73 cases. Of those 73 cases, there have been six in Washington County and four in Benton County. There were no cases reported in any other county we cover.
“I believe we've just had one case over the past five weeks. So that's the good news—it's slowed down considerably. We seem to be well past the peak of the outbreak. But of course, we are still seeing sporadic cases from time to time,” said Dr. Atul Kothari.
Dr. Atul Kothari is the Medical Director of the Outbreak Prevention and Response Branch at the Arkansas Department of Health. He says mpox cases have gone down globally in the last few months but doesn’t know if we’ll see another outbreak at some point in time.
“We just have to keep our guard up. The important thing at this time is to make sure that people who are at the highest risk get vaccinations, which are freely available throughout the state,” he said.
ADH recommends the mpox vaccine for people at high risk including men who have sex with men, and people who are HIV positive. Vaccines are available throughout our area at county health departments, clinics, and pharmacies.
The Pat Walker Health Center on the University of Arkansas campus offers the vaccine. Breeanne Carter with the center says they have given 11 vaccines since the end of August. In November, they gave three of those vaccines. She says they have a resource page on their website about the virus, but students and patients are welcome to call if they have questions.
“We have shared on our social media, Instagram Stories, Facebook stories, mainly just different prevention steps and treatment options that are available,” she said.
If you do get mpox there is an antiviral drug that the U.S. has a stockpile of. The drug is actually being developed for smallpox but Dr. Kothari says it also works well against mpox.
“We’ve actually treated almost half our cases with the Tecovirimat. And it's been remarkably effective. So it's not used for mild cases. But in cases where patients are immunocompromised, or at high risk of severe outcomes, or have severe disease, it's really helped them,” he said.
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