Nebraska Health Leaders Prepare as Monkeypox Cases Rise

June 16, 2022, 5 p.m. ·

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Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services

The CDC has raised alarm about the rising number of monkeypox cases in the United States. Monkeypox is in the same viral family as smallpox - but usually with much milder symptoms.

So far, 19 U.S. states and territories have recorded monkeypox cases, a total of 84. While there have been none detected in Nebraska, Dr. Matthew Donahue of Nebraska DHHS said hospitals are better equipped now than in the past.

“Testing is already available, vaccinations are already available. We have more tools to be able to stop this thing than we did at the beginning of COVID-19,” he said.

Dr. Donahue said that gay and bisexual men who have sex with other men have been disproportionally represented in the infection counts, but anyone exposed to infection is at risk.

“It’s important to talk about that so those who might be in harm’s way know to watch for symptoms of monkeypox. Gay and bisexual men who have sex with men are not the only people at risk,” he said.

Dr. Angela Hewitt, Medical Director for the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, said most cases have been mild but present differently than expected.

“Some only have a few characteristic lesions, as opposed to a more confluent rash all over the body. And the rash has been seen in different stages of development, which is very different than what we’ve been taught as medical providers to look for,” she said.

Monkeypox usually presents as a rash and blisters on the torso, hands, and face. However, Dr. Hewitt said recent cases have included less obvious rash and blister symptoms.

While medical professionals keep an eye on infections in the US, Dr. Donahue said that people should be watchful for rash symptoms, talk to their doctor, and arrange a test if necessary.