Monkeypox in Texas: new cases indicate community transmission

“This is a very abnormal transmission pattern. We’ve never seen this before,” said Dr. Luis Ostrosky with UTHealth and Memorial Hermann.

HOUSTON – On Thursday, more cases of monkeypox were confirmed in Texas.

The Texas Department of Health now reports 12 cases statewide, three of which are unrelated to travel, indicating that transmission is now occurring in the community.

Currently, there are four confirmed cases in the Greater Houston Area, all of which have been travel-related.

RELATED: Third Houston resident confirmed to have monkey pox

This week, a new campaign was launched to prepare to vaccinate Americans who may be at risk for the monkeypox virus.

Vaccine production has increased in the United States as the number of cases around the world continues to rise. All over the world, the CDC reports 5,115 cases including at least 350 in the United States

Dr. Luis Ostrosky, chief of infectious diseases at UTHealth and Memorial Hermann, says that while Monkeypox isn’t new, the current rate of transmission is.

“This is a very abnormal transmission pattern,” Ostrosky said. “We have never seen this before. To the point where it is about to be declared a global pandemic.

This chain of transmission appears to be very efficient, Ostrosky said, and is spread through close contact.

“It’s mostly transmitted through networks of men who have sex with men, at this point,” he said.

Symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a distinct pus-filled rash that usually develops up to two weeks after exposure. Ostrosky says Houston-area hospitals are looking for him and if a case is suspected, the patient is isolated and tested.

The isolation period for Monkeypox is 21 days.

RELATED: WHO panel: Monkeypox not a global emergency ‘at this stage’

Most people who develop the virus recover. Ostrosky said it’s estimated around 90% will be fine. But even still, it can be deadly. Health officials have said those most at risk are the immunocompromised, the very young, the elderly, pregnant and unborn women.

Although spread appears to be through close physical contact, there are growing concerns that community transmission could become more frequent and spread within a household.

This week, the Biden administration launched a new campaign to vaccinate anyone who thinks they are at risk. Previously, healthcare workers or anyone with known contact with the virus were offered a vaccine, but this will soon be open to anyone who thinks they are at risk nationwide.

About 56,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine are being shipped across the United States, with 1.6 million expected over the next few months. At this point, it’s unclear when they will be widely available in Houston.

“We are at a crucial moment in this outbreak,” Ostrosky said. “We may be able to contain him in this web of sexual transmission, if he jumps into the community setting where he’s going to be more casual, more family contact, we may have to vaccinate a lot more people.”

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