BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. —
A presumptive case of monkeypox has been detected in Broward County, as the virus spreads across the United States.
Now, a local infectious disease specialist is weighing in on what this means for everyone across South Florida.
The DOH-Broward confirmed that the person’s case is related to international travel and that they’re investigating possible exposures.
The person remains isolated.
If health care providers suspect a possible case of monkeypox, the department urges contacting a local health department immediately.
Monkeypox has already infected people in Canada, Europe and Australia, and most recently New York and Massachusetts.
Local expert weighs in
Palm Beach County infectious disease specialist Dr. Larry Bush said it’s only a matter of time before there are more confirmed cases.
“If we have a case, potentially, in Florida, a case in Massachusetts and a case in New York, then there are several other cases in the United States yet to be diagnosed and they will show up,” said Bush. “It would be quite coincidental that we have three cases, one in Florida, one in New England and one in New York that have nothing to do with each other. We’re going to see more cases.”
Bush said there are two strains of monkeypox, and the one in the U.S. appears to be the less-virulent one.
“The majority of these infections go onto resolution without any severe problem for the patient or for other patients exposed to them,” Bush said. “Monkeypox is in the same family as smallpox and smallpox had a high fatality rate back when smallpox was endemic and epidemic in the United States so the concern here is the recognition.”
There will be a small percentage of people who may get sick and could even die from this, he said, because the problem is that there is not a readily-available test for practicing physicians or providers.
“That is a major concern for me is that it’s novel to people who are practicing medicine right now, particularly outside of Africa,” Bush said.
He said the main symptom is a rash, which can turn into lesions and blisters. The CDC released this advisory about the virus.
The last outbreak of monkeypox in the U.S. was in 2003 when 34 people were infected. The smallpox virus, which is closely related to monkeypox, was eradicated in 1980.
He said the only cases of monkeypox until just recently were in some African countries.
Right now, there are smallpox vaccines, which can prevent monkeypox, but Bush says those doses are currently in the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile. The CDC is the only entity that can currently distribute those vaccines and treatments.
He said that’s why it’s important people and health care providers familiarize themselves with the signs of monkeypox at this time.
“We have to make people really aware now. When you see a rash, the first thing that has to go through your mind is, ‘Could this be monkeypox? Let me understand what that looks like and let me understand who I need to call and what I need to do,” Bush said.
Bush said the virus can spread through the air, but the main way is direct contact with a lesion or indirect contact with a lesion, like from contaminated clothing. He said he thinks anyone who has monkeypox should isolate until the rash clears. He said people can be contagious before they develop a rash.
“Obviously, we have to be cognizant of people who traveled not just to Africa but to parts of Europe and Canada and Australia and keep in mind that the first presentation of a rash needs to be investigated and that person needs to be isolated and their contacts investigated until proven otherwise,” Bush said.
Bush said the virus is probably spreading now because there is more international travel than ever before.
“We have a global travel situation right now and it’s the same reason we had COVID coming into the east coast and the west coast,” said Bush. “We have a very populated world and billions of them travel on a regular basis and that’s the reason we have diseases that are easily spread from one place to another before you can even wake up in the morning.”