Lubbock health officials say monkeypox concern ‘very low’ for general public after confirming first probable case

Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 4:04 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The City of Lubbock Public Health Department is investigating the first probable case of monkeypox in Lubbock County and warning health care providers to be on the lookout.

Director Katherine Wells says the concern for the general public is still very low. She says the department wants to get out ahead of the outbreak, asking the community to be mindful of the virus.

“We’re making this announcement ‘cause we want to make sure that our physicians, nurses, front desk workers at any health care facility are aware that we’ve had a case here, which means that we want them to be on the lookout,” she said.

The case is still classified as ‘probable’ as it works its way through the system. The Texas Tech University Bioterrorism Response Lab completed the initial testing, but the case has to be confirmed by the CDC. Wells says that’s why the case hasn’t been added to the Texas Health and Human Services website.

Wells says right now, monkeypox cases are showing up in a population of men who have sex with men. Symptoms can include fever, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes, but Wells says the classic symptom of the virus is a rash with pockmarks that look like pimples. It’s spread through close contact.

She says anyone can get the virus, but the general public isn’t at risk because the people in this outbreak report having close contact with other people who are infected.

“That doesn’t mean it’s only a virus that can affect that group. It can affect anybody, it’s just right now we’re seeing it in those individuals that associate with each other,” Wells said.

She says there’s a very limited amount of a vaccine that works for smallpox and monkeypox. If it’s given within the first few days of exposure, it can stop the virus from developing. It’s currently reserved for people who’ve had close contact, some of those here in Lubbock.

“There was a couple of doses, and then we’re working on getting additional doses. We’re seeing lots of pockets of monkeypox throughout Texas right now, so it’s very difficult to get those vaccines. We have to order those directly from the Centers for Disease Control.”

The health department is working with the individual in the probable case to see if they have a partner, or family members who have been in close contact.

“We also want individuals that have been around somebody with monkeypox or have a very strange rash or something, please think about it and either call the Public Health Department or talk to your doctor’s office,” Wells said.

The CDC is also expanding testing for the virus through private labs. Wells says that will increase capacity and make it more convenient for doctors and patients.

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