The Milwaukee Health Department and local organizations are ramping up efforts to encourage individuals who may have come into contact with monkeypox to get tested.
“If you know you’ve been exposed and if you have any symptoms, get tested immediately,” said Kirsten Johnson, Milwaukee Health Commissioner.
Those symptoms include fever, headache or other flu-like symptoms or lesions or a rash that become blisters, she said. As of Sept. 6, the city has had 25 confirmed cases of monkeypox.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released information on Sept. 12 warning that TPOXX, the antiviral medication currently being used to treat monkeypox, may lose its effectiveness as the virus mutates.
In response, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that the medication should only be used on those with severe symptoms.
The Milwaukee Health Department currently offers the vaccine to those 18 and older who live or work in Wisconsin and meet one of the following criteria:
- People with contacts identified by public health officials via case investigation, contact tracing and risk exposure assessments.
- People with a known sexual partner in the past 14 days who was diagnosed with monkeypox.
- People who attended an event or venue where monkeypox exposure occurred or plan to attend an event or venue where monkeypox exposure is a risk.
- Any men who have sex with men, trans men and women as well as gender non-conforming/non-binary individuals who have or expect to have multiple sexual partners.
- Health care personnel who perform testing to diagnose or work directly with Orthopoxviruses – a grouping that, besides monkeypox, includes smallpox and cowpox – and health care providers working in sexual health clinics or other specialty settings directly caring for patients with sexually transmitted infections.
So far, the Health Department has administered more than 1,200 doses, Johnson said. The vaccine is being offered without appointment at only the Menomonee Valley Drive-Thru Clinic, 2401 W. St. Paul Ave.
The city hopes to also offer the vaccine at two additional clinics soon, Johnson said.
The Milwaukee VA Medical Center recently announced that it has a limited supply of the monkeypox vaccine and is offering it to at-risk veterans.
Johnson said those who are apprehensive of getting the vaccine, shouldn’t be.
“It has been around for a while, it’s safe and can prevent you from getting monkeypox,” Johnson said.
In addition to vaccination efforts, Johnson said the city has also been working with local partners, including those who work with the LGBTQ community, which is most at risk for monkeypox, to increase testing.
Ruthie Weatherly, clinic operations manager for Brady East STD Clinic, or BESTD, said her organization offers monkeypox testing and has hosted on-site vaccination events. It has also received many questions about the virus.
“People are wondering how they can get it or how they can prevent monkeypox from their sex partners,” Weatherly said.
She said that although monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, or STD, it is spread through close intimate contact, which can include sex.
She recommends that individuals look out for any signs of monkeypox, both on themselves and their partners, and take other safety measures.
“Take whatever precautions you are comfortable taking for prevention and if you have questions call us,” Weatherly said.
For more information
Click here for more information about monkeypox and where you can get tested.