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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Inslee issues guidance on fighting monkeypox in Washington

Monkeypox and smallpox vaccines are seen at Northstar Medical Center in Chicago on July 18. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has issued new guidance on monkeypox to help control the spread. Cases in Washington are doubling every week.  (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday issued a directive to fight the ongoing monkeypox outbreak, building off actions the Department of Health announced they were taking last week.

As of Thursday, there have been 265 total monkeypox cases in 12 counties across Washington. There are three cases in Spokane County, according to the Department of Health. Cases in Washington have been doubling roughly every week, health officials said last week.

“Public health is at stake and we must continue to protect Washingtonians and do what we can to help control the spread of monkeypox,” Inslee said in a statement.

President Joe Biden declared monkeypox a public health emergency in the United States last week, but Washington state has yet to declare one.

Inslee’s directive calls on the Department of Health to conduct comprehensive public outreach and education on the virus with specific emphasis on individuals most at risk. The first wave of infections in the United States has largely hit the LGBTQ community, specifically gay or bisexual men, but Department of Health officials have warned that anyone can get the virus.

Symptoms of monkeypox can include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and respiratory symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of the most common and recognizable symptoms is a pimple-like rash on many parts of the body. Some people get a rash first followed by other symptoms, while others only experience a rash, according to the CDC. Most people will get a rash.

Monkeypox is most commonly spread through skin-to-skin contact, Washington’s chief science officer Dr. Tao Kwan-Gett said last week. It can spread through prolonged close contact with someone with a rash, or by touching bedding or clothing also touched by someone with a rash.

The threat remains low for most Washington residents, Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said last week, but there has been “a worrisome increase in cases across the globe, across the country and certainly across the state of Washington.”

While death due to monkeypox is rare, the disease can be “extremely painful and scarring,” according to Inslee’s directive.

The directive also calls on the department to prioritize equitable distribution of existing treatments and vaccines. There is no shortage of antiviral treatments that can be used on individuals who contract the virus, according to the directive.

There is a small vaccine supply. As of last week, the Department of Health had ordered 96% of what was allocated to them by the federal government. Those doses are being prioritized for people who have been exposed to the virus, officials said last week.

The directive also asks the department to monitor case counts and demographic data, convene round tables to enhance education related to the virus, work with local health jurisdictions, maintain testing capacity and use available statutory authority to take appropriate disease control measures.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.