DENVER (CBS4) – Health experts are keeping a close eye as new cases of monkeypox are confirmed around the country. As of Tuesday, no cases have been reported in Colorado, yet some medical experts believe that will change.
"As a practitioner, we're worried about it just because we need to make the diagnosis if we see a patient who has monkeypox," said Dr. Reginald Washington, chief medical officer of Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center and Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.
Monkeypox is a virus that originates in wild animals like rodents and primates. While it can jump to people, it's rarely seen outside central and western Africa – until now.
"It's very contagious," Dr. Washington said. "If someone has it, they can pass it onto others quite easily. I think we'll probably see one or two cases [in Colorado], particularly if someone has come in contact with someone who has it from another state and travels to Colorado, they may exhibit symptoms."
Those symptoms include fever, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes and a worsening rash that lasts 2-4 weeks. Monkeypox also requires very close contact to spread, so it is not likely to prompt big waves of disease like COVID-19, which can be transmitted in the air by people with no symptoms.
"It's not as contagious as COVID," explained Washington. "And, by the way, it's not related at all to COVID. It's a totally different problem."
A problem medical experts are watching closely, but don't believe it's anything to be overly worried about.
"It's not very prevalent, so I think the general public are not likely to ever encounter it," Washington said.
U.S. officials are in the process of releasing monkeypox vaccines from the nation's stockpile for people at high risk. Washington said the chicken pox and smallpox vaccines also provide some protection.
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