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What you should know about monkeypox and where to get the vaccine

Alaska Department of Health

While monkeypox outbreaks in Alaska have held steady at three confirmed cases over the last few weeks, public health experts say the threat of infection isn’t over.

As of Wednesday, there had been more than 55,000 reported cases worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And many of those cases are being reported from countries that have not experienced past outbreaks.

So far, most have been among gay and bisexual men, according to local Public Health Nurse Lorne Carroll. That’s the main demographic. But the virus can impact anyone regardless of sexual orientation and is not a sexually transmitted disease, he said.

“I wanna make the distinction between risk factors and demographics,” Carroll said. “Those are two different things. The risk factor is people that are in contact, close intimate contact, or sexual contact with someone that has monkeypox.”

Although monkeypox has been reported mostly among men ages 25-39, Caroll said the virus’ effects on other segments of the population like children or the elderly can be more severe.

“We know that kids that are ages eight and younger are at an increased chance for very bad outcomes in relation to monkeypox,” he said. “But luckily, we haven't seen as many cases amongst kiddos in the U.S. at this point.”

Carroll said the best way to prevent transmission is to limit skin-on-skin contact with someone who is experiencing symptoms. In over 98% of the confirmed cases worldwide, people experience a rash or lesions normally on the hands, feet or torso. According to the CDC, these blisters may be painful or itchy.

There are other symptoms as well. The majority of people with the virus report fatigue, flu-like symptoms, fever and chills, headaches, enlarged lymph nodes and rectal pain.

If you believe that you may have contracted the monkeypox virus, Carroll encourages consulting and testing with your health care provider or with someone at the Homer Public Health Center. 

While there are a limited number of the vaccines available statewide, the Homer Public Health Center does have doses of the monkeypox vaccine. They recommend those most at risk to get the two-shot JYNNEOS vaccine. The Homer Public Health Center is the only facility on the Southern Kenai peninsula offering it.

The Homer Public Health Center is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. It’s located at 195 East Bunnell Avenue, Suite C. They are scheduling people for the vaccine by appointment. You can make an appointment by calling the Center at (907) 235-8857.

Originally from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia, Desiree has called Alaska ‘home’ for almost two decades. Her involvement in radio began over 10 years, first as a volunteer DJ at KBBI, later as a host and producer, and now in her current role as a reporter. Her passions include stories relating to agriculture, food systems and rural issues. In her spare time, she can often be found riding her bicycle, creating art from handmade paper, or working in the garden.
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