Monkeypox cases top 100 in Texas, five in San Antonio, but there's no need to panic

Cases are mild, it's far less contagious than COVID-19, and there is a vaccine, a local infectious disease expert explained.

click to enlarge If you're feeling flu-like symptoms and have pus-filled skin lesions, experts recommend seeing a physician and getting tested for monkeypox. - Pexels / cottonbro
Pexels / cottonbro
If you're feeling flu-like symptoms and have pus-filled skin lesions, experts recommend seeing a physician and getting tested for monkeypox.
With over 100 people now testing positive for Monkeypox in Texas, including five in San Antonio, it may be easy to draw parallels with the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But, there's no need to panic, according to a top San Antonio infectious disease expert.

Dr. Jason Bowling with San Antonio's University Hospital points out that monkeypox is rarely fatal, its symptoms are mild and infections are comparable to that of chickenpox. What's more, the disease is actually difficult to catch through casual contact.

All of those factors make it far different from COVID-19.

"Basically, we just want the public to be aware of what it is because knowledge helps to combat fear," Bowling said. "We don't want people to be overly concerned about something they should just be aware of."

Here's everything you need to know about the Texas monkeypox outbreak.

Will you die?

Probably not. The strain of monkeypox behind the current outbreak in the U.S. is milder than other variants found in Africa, according to Bowling.

"Most people are not ending up in the hospital with this," he said. "They just have symptoms that don't feel good, like when you have a viral illness and kind of feel miserable. The skin lesions can be painful and itchy, and then they go away, kind of like chickenpox."

How do you get Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is fairly hard to catch, Bowling said. Unlike COVID-19, which spreads through the air via microscopic water droplets, monkeypox is primarily transmitted through contact with the skin lesions caused by the illness.

"The primary way that [monkeypox] transmits is when somebody is in contact with the lesions," Bowling explained. "It can look very similar to chickenpox lesions, and if you touch those lesions, or touch bedsheets or the clothes from somebody that had those lesions, that's going to be your biggest risk factor."

Although the zoonotic disease can transmit via large droplets of bodily fluids, it's improbable that you'll catch monkeypox by walking past an infected person on the street, Bowling added.

"Most daily activities are not going to put you at risk, unlike COVID, where now if you're with a group of people and you all sit around without a mask on, you very likely would be exposed to COVID and likely get it," he said.

Is there a vaccine?

Unlike during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a monkeypox vaccine already exists. The most commonly used monkeypox vaccine, called Jynneos, consists of two doses given four weeks apart, according to the New York Times,

Here's the problem, though: the national supply of vaccines is limited. So is testing.

"We need better access to the monkeypox vaccine," Bowling said. "I don't think everybody is going to need it, because not everybody is at risk."

How do I get tested?

If you're suffering from flu-like symptoms and notice a sudden onslaught of puss-filled skin lesions, Bowling recommends that you get tested for monkeypox. However, you can't simply go to your local CVS and pick up an at-home test kit like for COVID-19.

"It's just like the beginning of COVID," Bowling said. "In the beginning, there was very limited COVID testing, and it took a while for results to get back. But, we're moving to where monkeypox testing is going to be more available."

Currently, the only way to know for sure whether you have monkeypox is by getting tested by San Antonio's Metropolitan Health Department. But Bowling said commercial labs are now beginning to provide monkeypox testing. That means access to tests and testing sites should be more accessible in coming months.

So should I panic?

Here's what to consider: cases are mild, the disease is far less contagious than COVID-19 and there is a vaccine, Bowling emphasizes. In other words, there's no need to renew your Costco membership and start stocking up on toilet paper.

Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.
Scroll to read more San Antonio News articles
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join SA Current Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.