Monkeypox in Pittsburgh? Here’s what you need to know

Immunization illustration.

How accurate are the local monkeypox case counts? Can you die from monkeypox? Should we worry about kids? Is monkeypox an STD? Your questions answered by Allegheny County health leaders.

 
 

While you may be worn down by pandemic life and the merry-go-round of rising cases and new COVID-19 variants, a new concern is brewing locally: monkeypox. 

In a few months, the monkeypox virus went from a handful of reported cases in the United States to a public health emergency of international concern. Prior to the 2022 outbreak, monkeypox was reported in several central and western African countries and almost all cases outside of Africa were linked to international travel to places where the virus is common.

Allegheny County health officials reported that 29 monkeypox cases have been detected locally between June 26 and Aug. 1.

Health officials maintain the monkeypox outbreak differs from COVID-19 because of its slower transmission and lower fatality rate.

Monkeypox can begin with a fever, exhaustion, headache, muscle aches, backaches or swollen lymph nodes. A few days after symptoms begin, a painful rash or skin lesions may develop on the face or other parts of the body. Sometimes people may develop a rash first. There have been no monkeypox virus deaths reported in the U.S. 

The World Health Organization [WHO], which declared a public health emergency on July 27, said 99% of U.S. cases are related to male-to-male sexual contact. Public health experts continue to stress that anyone can get the virus. 

There have been concerns about misinformation leading to the possible stigmatization of gay and bisexual people due to messaging about who is impacted most by the virus. There has also been criticism about the name of the disease (its origins are rooted in racist stereotypes). 

Some infectious disease experts and other medical professionals worry the overemphasis on men who have sex with men may lead clinicians to dismiss the signs of monkeypox seen in others. There have been two reported cases of U.S. kids with monkeypox. For some, it’s a pattern reminiscent of the early days of COVID-19 when tests were mostly only available if you had recently traveled to Wuhan, China.

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