Georgia health officials address confusion over monkeypox testing

As monkeypox cases continue to rise, Georgia health officials want to clear up any confusion about testing for the virus and vaccinations.

Officials with the Georgia Department of Public Health say any healthcare provider should be able to test you for the disease.

But for Fulton County resident Brian Johnson, confusion over where to go made getting testing a difficult experience.


Johnson says at the end of July he noticed he was fatigued and had painful scars on his body.

He told FOX 5 he went to an urgent care clinic and Piedmont Hospital to get tested and was turned away. 

"I asked her and she was like, ‘Oh honey, we don’t do that here,'" Johnson said.

Ultimately, Johnson found testing at the Fayette County Health Department - a test that came back positive. As of Monday night, he says he has painful and itchy sores all over his body, He's using ointments to help, but doctors say the only "cure" is to self-isolate for two to four weeks and wait for the lesions to clear.

"For most, the monkeypox is mild and self limiting illness that will resolve on its own," Dr. Alexander Millman, Chief Medical Officer with DPH, said. "Some people have had very painful illness with lesions in their eyes, anus or throat."


The Georgia Department of Public Health's monkeypox information states that isolation and patience should get you through the monkeypox but for extreme cases there is a drug called TPOX. It's FDA approved to treat smallpox, but health officials have cleared its use for especially difficult monkeypox cases.

Millman said all area hospitals and healthcare providers can test for monkeypox. He also notes there has been confusion about testing both from patients and healthcare providers.

"Patients are not always familiar with where testing may be offered. Providers may have questions about how to do testing or where to send it," he said. "This is something any provider can test for. They just need to get the info to get the testing and submit the specimens to the appropriate lab."

As of Tuesday, Georgia monkeypox cases have now topped 600 with the number sitting at 625. Georgia ranks sixth in the country for the number of cases.

In total, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 8,900 confirmed cases in the United States.

Last week, the federal government declared a public health emergency over the virus, which will free up money and other resources to fight monkeypox.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox, and how is it spread?

Most monkeypox patients experience only fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. People with more serious illness may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body. 

The disease is endemic in parts of Africa, where people have been infected through bites from rodents or small animals. It does not usually spread easily among people.

In June, cases began emerging in Europe and the United States. Many — but not all — of those who contracted the virus had traveled internationally. Most were men who have sex with men, but health officials stress that anyone can get monkeypox.

The disease can be spread through close, personal, skin-to-skin contact including direct contact with rashes or sores, contact with objects or fabric that have been used by someone with monkeypox, or respiratory droplets or oral fluids.

There have been no U.S. deaths and officials say the risk to the American public is low. But they are taking steps to assure people that medical measures are in place to deal with the growing problem.

A two-dose vaccine, Jynneos, is approved for monkeypox in the U.S. The government has many more doses of an older smallpox vaccine — ACAM2000 — that they say could also be used, but that vaccine is considered to have a greater risk of side effects and is not recommended for people who have HIV. So it’s the Jynneos vaccine that officials have been trying to use as a primary weapon against the monkeypox outbreak.

Anyone with a rash that looks like monkeypox should talk to their healthcare provider, even if you do not believe you have had contact with anyone who has contracted the virus. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.