The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in mid-May issued an alert of a possible mpox resurgence this summer as people gather for events and festivals. Cases of mpox, formerly monkeypox, have fallen from last year’s summer peak. Still, the outbreak is not over.
Dr. David Persse, chief medical officer with the City of Houston, joined KPRC 2+ at 7 a.m. to share more.
The Houston Health Department currently reports about two to three mpox cases a month. It has reported 727 Houston cases since the outbreak began in 2022. A total of 30,395 cases have been reported in the United States.
Since it’s no longer in the headlines like last year, remind us of exactly what is mpox?
Mpox is a rare disease caused by a virus in the same family of viruses as smallpox. People with mpox often get a rash on their hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth or genital area. The incubation period is three to 17 days. During this time, a person does not have symptoms and may feel fine. The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing. The rash can initially look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy. Other symptoms include flu-like illness such as fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, chills and exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes. It spreads from person to person through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact and sexual contact.
Anyone who develops these symptoms should isolate themselves from others to prevent or minimize the risk of spread of illness to others and seek medical attention to be evaluated for potential testing.
Who is most at risk for an mpox infection?
Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and transgender people make up the majority of cases in the current mpox outbreak. However, anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, who has been in close, personal contact with someone who has mpox is at risk.
People with HIV or have other illness causing immune suppression or complicated medical conditions are at increased risk of serious complications from monkeypox.
Anyone who develops these symptoms need to isolate themselves from others to prevent or minimize the risk of spread of illness to others. They need to seek medical attention to be evaluated for potential testing.
What is the best way for people to protect themselves against mpox?
It is crucial that people at high risk make sure they are up to date on mpoxvaccination. People need to get two doses of the vaccine for the best protection against mpox. The second dose should be given four weeks after the first dose. It’s never too late to get the second dose.
The Jynneos vaccine is effective at reducing the risk of mpox disease. Two doses provide the best protection. Although no vaccine is 100% effective, the effectiveness of two doses of the Jynneos vaccine is substantial: 66% to 89%. Although infections after vaccination are possible, they may be milder and less likely to result in hospitalization.
Also, avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like mpox. And avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with mpox has used.
What is the Houston Health Department doing to avoid a resurgence?
This week the Houston Health Department began a community outreach effort this week to provide free mpox vaccines and education in June at pride events across Houston.
The department has continued to offer shots at its health centers and special events through its mobile vaccine unit.
People needing more information about mpox shots, Pride event mobile vaccination clinics, prevention tips and resources can visit houstonhealth.org or call the department’s call center at 832-393-4220.