US declares monkeypox a health emergency, Georgia doctor breaks down the basics

Now that monkeypox has been declared a public health emergency in the U.S., Kaiser Permanente Georgia epidemiologist and physician Dr. Felipe Lobelo says that could help states like Georgia, which has the sixth-highest number of cases.

"It allows us to have more resources and better coordination, so that we can distribute more vaccines and treatment in the places that are needing it the most," Lobelo says.

As of Thursday evening, the US had just over 7,102 monkeypox cases, and Georgia has confirmed 544 infections.


The monkeypox virus is usually spreading through close, skin-to-skin contact.

The CDC says the virus can be transmitted through direct contact with infected person's rash, scabs or body fluids.

It can also be spread by touching fabrics like clothing, bedding, towels, or touching surfaces used by someone with the virus, or through contact with their respiratory secretions.

Most of Georgia cases are in metro Atlanta area in gay or bisexual men.

"But, we should not be naive in thinking this virus will stay in one community," Dr. Lobelo says. "We should not stigmatize this, again, because this is not a virus that is a sexually transmitted disease or is only going to target one community. Anyone can get this, and that's why it's important that we get our hands around it from a public health perspective."

Monkeypox is known for causing an often painful, blistering rash.

The CDC says other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches and backache, and swollen lymph nodes.

Some may also experience chills, exhaustion, and respiratory symptoms such as a sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough.

There is a vaccine for smallpox that can be used against monkeypox, but it is in short supply.

The Georgia Department of Public Health has received and distributed just over 13,800 doses to health departments, and has just over 13,800 more on order.

For patients at risk of becoming severely ill, providers can request an antiviral known as TPOXX through the state.

"But, it needs to be obviously identified and treated rapidly," Dr. Lobelo says. "Same thing with vaccination for people who have been potentially exposed. Your best window of avoiding this disease with vaccination is if you are able to do it within the first 4 days after exposure. So, time is of the essence."