6 monkeypox cases in Twin Cities; MDH urges prompt care

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has now confirmed six cases of monkeypox in Minnesota, all of which are among Twin Cities residents. 

MDH on Friday said all the cases of monkeypox in Minnesota are in adults who live in the Twin Cities and have a history of travel, including domestic travel, or had direct contact with someone who traveled recently. 

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State health officials do expect that cases due to community spread could be identified soon, "as other areas outside of Minnesota have noted spread within their communities," MDH said in a news release. 

The Minnesota Department of Health confirmed the state's first case of monkeypox earlier this week. None of the Minnesotans with cases of monkeypox are currently hospitalized, and they're all receiving medical care and recovering, MDH said Friday. 

While the state's case numbers are low currently, MDH does not believe everyone with monkeypox has sought testing or assessment by a health care provider. State health officials are concerned the number of infections could grow rapidly unless people who are at risk for monkeypox take steps to protect themselves, recognize when they may be infected and seek medical care promptly if they get monkeypox.

"It’s clear that monkeypox has come to Minnesota," State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said in a news release. "While our current cases are associated with travel outside Minnesota, we expect we will soon see cases among people who have no travel history or contact with someone who did, indicating that spread within social networks in Minnesota is occurring. We also think that many people with cases nationally are not seeking medical attention and that the number of people experiencing monkeypox is higher than the reported cases. We want to make sure that at-risk Minnesotans and their health care providers are informed about monkeypox – how it spreads, what the symptoms are and how to prevent its spread."

Symptoms of monkeypox

RELATED: What is monkeypox?

The symptoms of monkeypox can include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash that can look like pimples or blisters. In this outbreak, some individuals have had a rash only and no other symptoms, and sometimes the rash consists of only a few sores. The rash can occur in the mouth, and there may be sores in the genital and anal areas. In other cases, a rash may be on the face and on other parts of the body. 

"Monkeypox can sometimes be mistaken for sexually transmitted diseases, like syphilis or herpes, so it’s important that health care providers consider multiple infections and try to learn as much as possible from their patients about their potential contacts within the last 14 days with someone who may have had monkeypox," Lynfield said. "Being able to identify cases and their contacts early is important for providing appropriate treatment for the person and prevention for high-risk contacts, including post-exposure vaccination. This can greatly help to reduce the spread of the virus."

People with monkeypox are sick for about two to four weeks and can spread the virus until their rash is completely healed, meaning until the scabs fall off and new skin appears. Most people get better on their own without treatment. However, sometimes monkeypox can cause scars from the sores, lead to pneumonia, and in rare cases even be fatal. 

People who have monkeypox can spread the virus from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed.

For those who do have severe illness or are at risk for severe illness, such as those with a weakened immune system, or people who certain skin conditions or other complications, antiviral medications that were developed for smallpox may be used for treatment under a special protocol through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Preventing the spread of monkeypox

Monkeypox is less infectious than other diseases like COVID-19, measles, chickenpox and influenza; however, it can be easily spread by contact with skin lesions. 

Anyone can get monkeypox if they have close, sustained contact with someone who is infected with monkeypox. This can include skin-to-skin contact and during sexual activity. In the current global outbreak, health officials are seeing a high proportion, although not all cases, that are occurring among people who identify as gay and bisexual men. 

"It’s important for people who are at higher risk to be aware of the potential for exposure and to take steps to reduce their risk of infection," Lynfield said in the release. 

MDH says to prevent the spread of monkeypox, people should: 

  • Practice good hand hygiene. For example, washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Minimize skin-to-skin contact with individuals who have been exposed to the virus or to those showing a rash or skin sores.
  • Avoid contact with any materials, such as bedding, that has been in direct contact with someone with monkeypox.
  • Reach out to a health care provider if you develop symptoms, as early recognition and testing can help prevent further transmission.

The need for a vaccine or antivirals is being evaluated on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with the CDC. The CDC doesn't recommend broader use of the vaccine at this time. 

Here is MDH's monkeypox website.