by Elpidio Estioko
While the risk to most Hawaii residents against monkeypox remains low (12 reported cases), we should not be complacent, but instead should fight the virus head-on with conviction and renewed vigor!
As of writing, we have over 10,000 monkeypox cases all over the country. Also, the fight against the surging coronavirus must go on.
President Joe Biden declared monkeypox a public health emergency in the country. With this declaration, this would help mobilize resources for state health officials who are battling the outbreak. The last time the U.S. declared a public health emergency was in response to COVID-19 in January 2020.
Health Secretary Xavier Becerra said states need to do more to prevent transmission and Congress needs to pass funding to support the response to the outbreak.
As for Hawaii, the Department of Health (DOH) reported that in June 3, we now have a total of 12 monkeypox cases after identifying one additional case from Maui. The case of the Maui resident is associated with travel outside of Hawaiʻi, according to Hawaii DOH.
“The risk to most Hawaii residents remains low, but action now is essential for protecting public health. We continue to ensure that case investigation continues, and that testing and vaccination are available, especially in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by this outbreak,” Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Nathan Tan said.
Vaccination is available statewide. Getting vaccinated reduces the chances of getting monkeypox and may reduce symptoms of infection. However, no vaccine is 100% effective; therefore, it is important for individuals to reduce their risk of potential exposureto monkeypox both before and after receiving a dose of JYNNEOS, the approved vaccine against monkeypox.
As vaccine supplies are currently limited, DOH has developed a strategy for vaccine allocation in Hawaii to protect those at increased risk of infection or severe disease.
People who are currently eligible for a JYNNEOS vaccine in this phase include Hawaii residents ages 18 years and older and individuals who have had exposure to individual(s) with confirmed orthopoxvirus/monkeypox virus within the last 14 days, or Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men and transgender individuals with high risk intimate contact in venues (sex-on-premises events, bathhouses, sex clubs) or areas where monkeypox is known to be spreading in the last 14 days.
Eligible individuals should call our monkeypox hotline at 808-586-4462 to schedule an appointment. Call the phone line Monday through Friday from 7:45am to 4:30pm Appointment scheduling through individual healthcare providers is not yet available.
The Hawaii DOH said individuals exposed to monkeypox should contact their healthcare provider immediately. Options are available to prevent infection after high-risk close contact through vaccination.
Infection begins with flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, exhaustion, and swollen lymph nodes. Infection progresses to a rash or sores, often on the hands, feet, chest, face, or genitals. Individuals generally become ill within 21 days of exposure. Infections generally last two to four weeks. Individuals are infectious until all lesions are scabbed over and new skin has grown.
As we troop to the classrooms this coming school year next week, administrators, students, teachers, and parents need to know that the war vs. COVID is still on! It is surging! Let us not be complacent as the new variants are actively attacking everybody, even babies are not an exception.
Lately, most of our students were quarantined because they were either found positive or found exhibiting symptoms of the virus. And I was surprised to know that the whole family of a relative was positive, including their one and half-year-old baby.
Surprised because it was my first time to hear that even babies are now victims of the virus. This is a rare incident, but we need to be aware of it, so we can be ready for it!
Okay, will monkeypox also affect the schools? Health officials have repeatedly emphasized that anyone can catch monkeypox through physical contact with someone who has the rash that characterizes the disease or contaminated materials such as towels and bedsheets.
The CDC confirmed recently the first two US cases of children catching the virus. School officials should be aware that their students are not exceptions to them getting monkey pox. Everybody is!
Students need our urgent support as they return to school after a prolonged impasse.
When asked if we could face a summer COVID surge that would require a return to preventive measures like masks and isolation, epidemiologist David Dowdy said:
“It’s important for us to realize that in some ways we are already in the midst of a surge. Apparently, there is a possibility that during the summer season, we may have to contend with the original preventive measures like wearing masks, isolation and social distancing.”
This is concerning because Dowdy added: “There are indicators that the level of coronavirus transmission in the U.S. now is about the same as we experienced during the Delta wave and almost as high as the surge during the first winter of the pandemic.”
This is scary, so we need to have extra care in our daily life and be cautious of what we do to stay away from the pandemic. This is not the time to relax. We need to put in more efforts in combatting and winning the war against the pandemic.
ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and a multi-awarded journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Elpidio Estioko