Maine CDC director on monkeypox spread, treatment, vaccines

Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 5:51 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Now that monkeypox has been declared a public health emergency, many in Maine and around the globe are wondering how it will impact everyday life.

The head of the Maine CDC, Dr. Nirav Shah, said during a community forum Tuesday that of the 15,000 cases in the U.S., only five have been in Maine.

He said although 94% of those cases are in men who have had sex with men, everyone is susceptible, and the disease will likely spread to other demographics.

Like COVID-19, monkeypox symptoms include fever and body aches.

It also causes extremely painful blisters.

As we’re faced with two public health emergencies at the same time, Shah explained some of the differences between the diseases.

“Monkeypox spreads more slowly than does COVID,” Shah said. “Monkeypox is transmitted through close, direct contact, skin-to-skin most commonly, whereas COVID is overwhelmingly transmitted through the air. I’m not aware of any cases that have been documented as having occurred from fomite, or surface-based, transmission.”

Many are also wondering how they can protect themselves.

He says an antiviral known as TPOXX relieves symptoms, and there’s plenty of it available.

It’s accessible at more than 20 locations across the state and will soon be in commercial pharmacies.

Shah also noted vaccine eligibility has been expanded, and the FDA has recommended a new practice that uses a smaller dose.

His biggest piece of advice?

“My recommendation is that you advocate to be tested,” Shah said. “Testing is critical, and across the country, testing is not where we want it to be. We’ve done testing in Maine, and I’m proud of that, but I’d like us to be doing more. We’re working with providers to make sure they’re casting a wide net if they have a patient in front of them.”

There is a list of treatment and vaccination clinics on the Maine CDC website.