Snohomish County is now seeing its first case of monkeypox, days after a likely first case for Pierce County was just announced over the weekend.
That’s in addition to 16 cases confirmed in King County.
The virus causes fever, aches and a rash that can look like pimples or blisters.
“It’s kind of annoying; (it) feels like we’re getting hit with all these waves of viruses,” said Julia Graupensperger, who was in Seattle on Monday.
The University of Washington School of Medicine announced Monday that its virology labs are now able to test for monkeypox — work they just started doing last week. People need to access testing through their health provider, and the turnaround time is around one to two days.
The virus does not spread through the air. You need to be in close physical contact with someone to get it.
“It’s not sexually transmitted necessarily. It can be passed through intimate contact or close physical contact with someone with the pustules or the rash from monkeypox,” said Nigel Turner, the Communicable Disease Control division director with Tacoma-Pierce County Public Health.
But with summer in full swing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning people with plans like going to concerts or clubs. On its website, the CDC says a party “where there is minimal clothing and where there is direct, personal, often skin-to-skin contact has some risk.”
“Avoid any rash you see on others,” the CDC advises. Events where people are “fully clothed and unlikely to share skin-to-skin contact are safer,” the CDC says.
“It kind of makes you think twice about going to really crowded places like bars, concerts, ... or rubbing up against people,” Graupensperger said.
So far, the virus has heavily impacted the LGBTQ community, with the Washington State Department of Health saying current local and international cases “mainly involve men who have sex with men.”
But local doctors and public health officials are warning against stigma.
“The stigma really doesn’t help. We need to avoid that. The important thing is this is a disease anyone can get,” said Turner said.
“As the monkeypox outbreak has persisted, we’re starting to see heterosexual transmission and transmission with close contact in households,” said Dr. Deborah Fuller, division director of the Infectious Diseases & Translational Medicine unit at UW Medicine.
“Viruses don’t care. They like to infect any warm body. They do not see any difference between people,” Fuller said.
Doctors are putting the CDC’s warning in perspective, reminding you the monkeypox virus is still very rare.
“It’s not something the general person is in very high risk of getting,” Fuller said.
“It’s important people do enjoy their summer, but have some common sense about this. If you have some blisters or pustules, don’t attend the event until you’ve had it checked out,” Turner said.
Another challenge: Though two smallpox vaccines have been approved for use to prevent monkeypox (the two viruses are closely related), the vaccine rollout has been slow.
Washington state currently has enough to vaccinate fewer than 400 people, and most of that has already been distributed to close contacts of people who’ve gotten sick.
More doses are coming from the federal government in July, but it’s not clear yet how many doses will be allocated.
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