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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Health officials say it’s too early to tell if monkeypox cases are on the decline

A medical laboratory technician picks up suspected monkeypox samples from a fridge at the micro biology laboratory of La Paz Hospital on June 6 in Madrid, Spain.  (Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images North America/TNS)

OLYMPIA – State health officials say it’s too early to tell if monkeypox cases are going down, Department of Health officials said Thursday.

The risk to the general public remains low, Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah told reporters.

“This outbreak of monkeypox in the midst of COVID is a large outbreak in and of itself,” state epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist said. “This is a maturing outbreak.”

As of Thursday, there were 392 cases of monkeypox statewide. Most of those – 318 – were in King County. Spokane County had five cases, according to the state’s database.

There have been 12 reported hospitalizations in the state, Shah said.

As of Thursday, there is not enough data to say whether there is a slowdown of monkeypox cases, Lindquist said.

The epidemic curve does not yet show a consistent stalling out of cases, Lindquist said.

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.

Anyone who has an unexplained rash should get it checked out, and avoid skin-to-skin contact with other people in the meantime, Shah said.

“If you’re a person who is around a case of monkeypox,” Lindquist said, “you’re at a higher risk.”

The state has received 16,210 vials of the monkeypox vaccine, all the state was allocated by the federal government. Those eligible for the monkeypox vaccine include any close contacts of confirmed cases, people at high risk for recent exposure to the virus and laboratory workers who handle virus specimens.

The first wave of monkeypox infections nationwide mostly hit men who have sex with men, but health officials are reminding everyone that anyone could get infected. King County reported its first pediatric case last week.

“Everybody needs to take precaution,” Manny Santiago, executive director of the Washington State LGBTQ Commission, said. “Everybody is at risk.”

As students make their way back to college, university officials are also looking at ways to mitigate the spread of monkeypox on campus.

At Eastern Washington University, officials have already been meeting with the Spokane Regional Health District to create plans in case there are cases on campus, university spokesman David Meany wrote in an email.

“As with Covid, we will work with our public health experts for guidance,” he wrote.

The university also has an old dorm that they use as a COVID-19 isolation facility that could be used for monkeypox cases, he said.

Meany also encouraged students to continue good health and safety habits, such as washing your hands and staying home if sick.

Washington State University’s Cougar Health Services has a page on their website offering information to students about monkeypox.

It encourages students who have a new or unexplained rash to see a doctor and avoid close contact with anyone. Cougar Health Services is also offering testing for monkeypox and can help identify proper treatment, including working with Whitman County public Health to advocate for access to the vaccine.

University spokesman David Wasson said WSU Pullman will be receiving approximately 250 doses of the vaccine from the state and expects to begin vaccinating eligible students next week.

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.