Monkeypox cases continue to rise in Minnesota and across the country. There are now 5,189 infections nationwide in all but three states.
“I feel like I heard the word monkeypox and I got it and it happened so fast,” Kyle Benter said. “It’s spreading even faster now.”
Benter has been battling the virus for around two weeks, having been in contact with a friend who also later tested positive.
“I actually got it from one person,” Benter said. “A lot of people think his people are having a ton of sex, touching a ton of people, going to clubs, going to parties, or whatever.”
The University of Minnesota graduate now lives in Chicago. He said the symptoms started with exhaustion and chills, but he didn’t initially think he was getting sick. During a routine visit to the doctor, her doctor discovered a swollen lymph node. Benter said lesions quickly began to appear all over his body.
“Every day I was like ‘it’s going to be better, tomorrow it’s going to be better’,” he said. “And it gets worse and it gets worse.”
The pain was so intense that Benter went to the emergency room.
“I was like ‘Can I please for God’s sake have something for the pain because it’s so unbearable at this point, it’s excruciating, it’s affecting every aspect of my life , I can’t even sleep properly,'” he described.
Illinois has reported more than 400 cases, the third highest state in the nation. The number of infections in Minnesota jumped from 19 to 33 cases in a week.
“The majority of cases are in gay men, bisexuals and men who have sex with men,” state epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield said. “He happens to be circulating in this group right now, but it can happen to anyone in close physical contact.”
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the majority of cases are in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. A case has also been identified in Greater Minnesota. The infections affected men between the ages of 18 and 55, with a median age of 37.
“If you or your partner have recently been ill, have been ill currently, or have a new or unexplained rash, do not engage in close skin-to-skin contact, including sex, and seek medical advice” , said Dr. Lynfield.
The virus is spread through prolonged skin-to-skin contact, including direct contact with a monkeypox rash, scabs, or bodily fluids from a person with monkeypox. According to Dr. Lynfield, it can also be spread through contact with fabrics, including bedding, clothing or towels, that have been used by an infected person. In addition, respiratory droplets can transmit disease from one person to another.
There is a vaccine for people who have been exposed or are at higher risk of exposure.
According to MDH, about 3,000 doses are available statewide with another 7,600 doses expected to be distributed over the next four to six weeks.
The two-dose Jynneos vaccine is provided by the federal government. It is generally not commercially available or stocked by health care providers, according to MDH.
“We know this amount is nowhere near enough for the tens of thousands of people estimated to be at high risk in Minnesota,” Dr. Lynfield said. “The vaccine alone cannot stop the spread of this epidemic, the practice of preventive measures in addition to the vaccine is essential.”
MDH distributes the vaccines it receives from the federal government to local health care providers and health departments.
“I wish there were more places to give out vaccines,” said Jamieson Fang, who lives in Saint Paul.
Fang called the Red Door Clinic in Minneapolis to schedule a vaccine after seeing new cases of monkeypox in the Twin Cities, including among friends about a month ago.
“Ever since the disease came to the United States it’s been on my mind, but once friends told me they caught the virus in Minneapolis, I started to worry about the spread. of the virus,” Fang said. “I just want to be proactive, protect myself and my friends from the virus.”
Fang received the first dose last week and will return for the second injection in about a month. According to health officials, the two doses are given approximately 28 days apart.
“The vaccine itself is quick and easy, not painful […] I have no side effects,” Fang said. “I don’t want anyone suffering from this kind of disease, so be proactive and get vaccinated.”
Benter also encourages people to seek out a vaccine to prevent further spread.
“It’s traumatic, it’s really, really bad,” Benter said of the illness. “It’s absolutely important to go out there and get vaccinated.”
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