SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio community and surrounding areas are concerned after cases of monkeypox were confirmed in Bexar County Thursday.
The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District announced Thursday afternoon two cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in Bexar County. An additional case was reported by a health official Friday, bringing the total to three.
While the risk to the general public is currently low, the ongoing and deadly COVID-19 pandemic has understandably put people on edge when it comes to unfamiliar viruses and diseases.
We spoke with Dr. Anita Kurian, the Assistant Director of San Antonio Metro Health Communicable Disease Division, about the risks and how monkeypox is transmitted. Here is some of what she said.
KENS 5: What is the current sitaution and how is monkeypox transmitted?
Dr. Kurian: They're generally reporting having closed close, sustained physical contact with other people who have monkeypox. And many of those affected in this outbreak are primarily gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men. But anyone who has been in contact with someone who has monkeypox can get the illness. So, it is primarily transmitted through skin to skin contact, especially direct contact with the rash, scab or body fluids from a person with monkeypox. Additionally, also important to remember that touching objects, fabrics, surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox or close contact with the respiratory secretions from somebody who was who's had monkeypox can also transmit the disease.
KENS 5: Is there a length of time, say, if I had it on my hands and I touch something, that it would stay alive on the surface?
Dr. Kurian: We don't have that information just yet, but what we are recommending is looking cleaning of frequently touched surfaces by a case of monkeypox. Using any of the EPA approved disinfectants should clean the surfaces.
KENS 5: Do we know why so many gay and bisexual men are getting this?
Dr. Kurian: You know, like I said, the mode of transmission is through skin to skin contact, especially with direct contact with dry scabs or body fluids. Right. So, you know, attending facilities or being in venues where this is possible is the reason why we're seeing most of these cases pop up in certain facilities and certain segments of the population. So very important avoid close to skin to skin contact in large crowds that people have very minimal clothings, especially like places like, you know, if you're visiting saunas, bathhouses, nightclubs, even some of the festivals and raves. Make sure you don't have that skin to skin contact with folks, especially folks in rashes.
KENS 5: Is it hard to manage COVID like this latest surge and this at the same time?
Dr. Kurian: You know, public health, we train for managing public health emergencies. So with COVID, we are seeing a slow and steady increase in cases. But, it is not to the extent where we had documented case rises or hospitalizations, deaths with the previous surges. So at this time, we are able to effectively handle these public health crises.
KENS 5: How concerning are the two cases in their county and the 42 in Texas compared to, say, California or New York, where there've been so many more?
Dr. Kurian: So we have three cases as of this afternoon. We have three confirmed cases here in Bexar County. And, you know, I won't be surprised if the case numbers go up, especially because of what's happening across the state nationwide. But the good news is that we don't have community transmission just yet in our community. Our cases have either been exposure to a confirmed case or have a history of exposure to facilities or venues that have been known that have known cases of monkeypox.
KENS 5: What is the vaccine supply like now here in Texas and who should be getting vaccines, if anyone?
Dr. Kurian: So at this at this time, I can tell you vaccine supply is limited. Vaccines are dispensed. This is not a vaccine that is freely available in your neighborhood. Pharmacies or our local public health department can order it directly from the manufacturers. Vaccines are being released from the Strategic National Strategic Stockpile by the federal government to the states and jurisdictions that have the highest number of cases or highest number of exposures. So the vaccine supply at this time is limited. Federal government is working on increasing the supply chain or relaxing the supply chain or increasing the protections. But at this time, supplies are coming from the doses that are available at the Strategic National Strategic Stockpile. And it is going to it is being prioritized to jurisdictions with highest number of cases for highest number of exposures.
KENS 5: Is there anything else we need to know?
Dr. Kurian: I just want to say at this time, the risk of monkeypox to the general population is believed to be low. It cannot easily spread from people to people, and it can only spread if you come in close contact, skin to skin contact with somebody who has monkeypox. And also important to remember, people who do not have monkeypox symptoms cannot spread it to others as well.