NCDOH: Current risk to general public is low
On July 25, Niagara County Department of Health was notified by the New York State Wadsworth Center Laboratory that the first case of orthopoxvirus/monkeypox was detected in a Niagara County resident.
Niagara County Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton said the NCDOH interviewed the individual and concluded no additional contacts exist.
“In the event that contacts were identified, we would coordinate with the New York State Department of Health to provide postexposure prophylaxis (vaccination) to Niagara County residents," he said.
NCDOH also explained the following:
Monkeypox is a rare viral infection that does not usually cause serious illness, but may result in hospitalization or death. People with monkeypox in the current outbreak generally report having close, sustained physical contact with other people who have monkeypox. Less common routes of transmission include respiratory droplets from prolonged face-to-face contact, or contact with contaminated materials such as clothing or bedding. While many of those affected in the current outbreaks are men who have sex with men, anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox can get the illness.
Monkeypox has an incubation time of one to three weeks after exposure and typically lasts two to four weeks. The illness typically starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches and exhaustion. A rash will develop one to three days after the onset of illness. The rash can look like pimples or blisters that can appear on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals or anus. The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. The rash starts as flat, red bumps, which can be painful, before turning into blisters and finally scabbing over.
“Monkeypox is primarily spread by close contact and exposure to an infected person’s skin lesions, other bodily fluids, or respiratory droplets,” said Adrienne Kasbaum, NCDOH director of nursing. “Anyone in close skin to skin contact with someone who has monkeypox can get the illness, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Anyone who develops a new, unexplained rash on any part of the body should seek medical attention immediately and avoid contact with others. Unlike respiratory viruses that spread through exposure to infected respiratory aerosols or droplets, the general public is not at risk of exposure through usual everyday activities.”
New Testing Capability
In the same hour this announcement was made, Gov. Kathy Hochul said the New York State Department of Health has reviewed and approved Quest Diagnostics' recent application for testing to identify monkeypox in New York.
Her team said, “The testing, which uses real-time PCR technology to test samples from individuals who are presenting with vesicular rashes or pustules, will further expand New York state's ample testing capacity, and give providers another option when it comes to labs that can process samples and detect monkeypox virus.”
Currently, specimens can be tested at the state's Wadsworth Center, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, as well through private labs including LabCorp, Mayo Clinic, Aegis Sciences Corp., Sonic Healthcare, and UR Medicine Lab.
"New York still faces a disproportionate number of monkeypox cases, and we will continue to meet this moment with urgency and aggressive action," Hochul said. "Today's announcement builds on our ongoing monkeypox response efforts to expand testing capacity, secure more vaccines and make resources as widely available as possible. We will continue to do everything in our power to protect New Yorkers, including our most vulnerable communities."
Like other tests available, Quest Diagnostics' new polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test uses swab specimens collected by health care providers, such as primary care physicians, hospitals or urgent care, from patients presenting with an acute generalized pustular or vesicular rash.
The new type of testing was announced by Quest in mid-July, with deployment expected in the weeks ahead.
According to New York State Public Health Law, the Department of Health was required to take additional steps to approve this new testing, with Quest Diagnostics submitting information to the Clinical Laboratory Evaluation Program (CLEP). That review is now complete.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, "As we continue to expand monkeypox testing capacity through the additional use of private labs, it's important to know that the state's Wadsworth Center also has available capacity for additional testing. But the real challenge with testing is that it involves swabbing lesions, which must be present for the test to assess whether the virus is also present. Without lesions, testing is not currently possible. And we will continue working to make sure providers know when and how to test for monkeypox."
Providers can find detailed instructions on how to collect samples in the health advisories the department has shared through the health alert network.
The expanded testing capacity builds on the New York State Department of Health's ongoing response to monkeypox, which included recently launching a SMS-text notification effort to deliver the latest monkeypox information directly to New Yorkers. People can sign up for text messages – which will include alerts about cases, symptoms, spread and resources for testing and vaccination – by texting MONKEYPOX to 81336, or MONKEYPOXESP for texts in Spanish. By providing a ZIP code, New Yorkers can also opt-in for location-based messages.
Due to New York's ongoing coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's monkeypox response team, the state has secured more than 60,000 doses to date, including those for New York City.
Hochul’s team said she recently spoke with Dr. Ashish Jha of the White House “to ensure that New York continues to receive its fair share of vaccine supply as soon they are available, especially for those New Yorkers in communities with high transmission rates.”
NYSDOH's dedicated website, which stays updated with the latest information, has free, downloadable materials, including a palm card, information card, handout and posters available in both English and Spanish. NYSDOH has already distributed these resources to LGBTQ+ organizations, local county health departments, health care providers, and businesses.
Hochul’s team added, “In addition to public outreach, the New York State Department of Health continues to focus on distributing vaccines to communities. Local county health departments that have received supply are administering the vaccine directly and establishing their own appointment processes. Working in partnership with counties, New Yorkers who sign-up for location-based alerts may receive alerts on vaccine availability, clinic locations, scheduling, and other monkeypox-related updates specific to their area.”
For more information about monkeypox, visit health.ny.gov/monkeypox.
New Yorkers can learn more about New York state's first vaccine allocation from the federal government here, and the second allocation here.
For additional information:
√ Niagara County Department of Health: https://www.niagaracounty.com/Portals/4/Docs/Monkeypox/Monkeypox.pdf
√ New York State Department of Health, monkeypox: https://health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/monkeypox/
√ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Monkeypox: https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/response/2022/