September 2, 2022
A Message from Dr. Richard Friend, Dean of the College of Community Health Sciences
COVID-19 has been a part of our lives for the past two-and-a-half years. Now, we are contending with another virus – monkeypox.
Though monkeypox is endemic to West and Central Africa, there are currently 15,000 cases in the United States. As of the end of August, there were 54 cases of monkeypox in Alabama (none in Tuscaloosa).
A monkeypox infection is marked first by symptoms – fever, chills, headache and a general fatigue – followed by a rash that ultimately produces painful lesions. A person diagnosed with monkeypox is considered infectious until the lesions have scabbed over and fresh skin has grown underneath, a process that could take up to three weeks.
Monkeypox is mostly spread through close, personal and intimate skin-to-skin contact. Transmission can also occur via shared fabric such as clothes, bedding and towels if scabs from lesions that are still infections remain in the clothes and linens that another person then uses.
Monkeypox is rarely fatal. There have been about 45,000 cases of monkeypox worldwide and only six deaths so far. A vaccine exists to prevent or mitigate infection from monkeypox, and there are medications for those with confirmed cases of the virus. Health experts recommend vaccination for people at risk, including those who are immunocompromised and/or taking medications that suppress their immune systems.
Monkeypox was first discovered in research primates in 1957 and that’s likely how the virus got its name. Monkeypox is in the same virus family as smallpox, and public health experts believe that people who have been vaccinated against smallpox will have protection against monkeypox. While that’s a large portion of the U.S. population, it doesn’t include everyone because the smallpox vaccine ceased being offered in the mid-1970s when the disease was eradicated.
We are learning about monkeypox quickly and monitoring it carefully. While the virus might be new to us, it is not new to the human population. With the information, research and data public health experts have about monkeypox, and the vaccine and medications that already exist, we are well prepared to deal with this virus.
The College of Community Health Sciences operates University Medical Center, the UA Student Health Center and Pharmacy, Brewer-Porch Children’s Center and Capstone Hospitalist Group.