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‘Hopefully, we’ve learned something from COVID’: Monkeypox reaches Mississippi

monkeypox mississippi
The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970. Prior to the 2022 outbreak, monkeypox had been reported in people in several central and western African countries (Photo courtesy of the CDC)

Now that the first case of monkeypox has been confirmed in Mississippi, one local physician is urging residents to utilize the COVID-19 pandemic as a tool when protecting themselves from infection.

Longtime Vicksburg family practitioner Dr. Randy Easterling explained on Tuesday’s episode of MidDays with Gerard Gibert that even though the two viruses are vastly different, the practices generated by COVID-19 — wearing masks, social distancing, physical distancing, etc. — are the best ways to prevent the spread of monkeypox.

“[Monkeypox] is something we have to be mindful of. It’s something we have to keep our guard up with — just like we have with COVID,” Easterling said. “That’s the key to managing any public health crisis. People need to act responsibly. And I just hope to God that we’ve learned something over the last two years.”

While monkeypox does not seem to spread easily without close contact, transmission can occur with close skin-to-skin contact with an infected person; by touching clothing or linens, bedding, or towels of an infected person; or by inhaling respiratory droplets during prolonged close contact with an infected person.

Monkeypox symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, headache, and muscle aches, followed by a rash that starts out as flat before advancing to pimples, or blisters and ulcers on the face, body, and sexual organs.

“If you’re around someone who has a rash and you have to be, wear a mask,” Easterling said. “Certainly, don’t touch the lesions. More importantly, don’t be around them unless you just absolutely have to. Then, pay attention to your own body.”

As for vaccines, there are two that could protect against monkeypox: the ACAM2000 smallpox vaccine and the JYNNEOS smallpox and monkeypox vaccine. The latter, a two-dose shot, has been used far more widely during this outbreak. Mississippi currently has a limited number of vaccines to treat monkeypox, according to the State Department of Health.

To learn more about monkeypox, the full interview with Easterling is available below.

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