NORFOLK, Va. - Health officials in Virginia and around the country are keeping close tabs on monkeypox.
At the start of August, 105 monkeypox cases have been reported across the Commonwealth.
Monday, News 3's Zak Dahlheimer talked with folks in Hampton Roads, where there were mixed reactions on monkeypox.
“It’s scary, especially just coming of COVID-19. It’s definitely something to look out for,” Carlos Antonio told News 3.
“We just went through COVID, and I’m tired of being worried about viruses,” Pat Halloran said.
Dr. Ryan Light, News 3’s medical expert and a Chesapeake Family Medicine physician, said Virginia’s monkeypox case numbers are relatively low compared to other areas of the country.
“At this point, it’s nothing to be concerned about,” Light said.
According to Virginia Department of Health (VDH) data, as of August 1, 13 of the 105 monkeypox cases in Virginia are in the eastern region. The eastern region includes Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore.
When looking statewide at age groups, the highest number of cases, 39 percent, are among 30–39-year-olds. This age group is closely followed by 20-29-year-olds at 37.1 percent.
According to VDH, 99 percent of monkeypox cases in Virginia are men.
Light said the disease is spread commonly through close and intimate contact. However, VDH officials tell News 3 the spread of monkeypox isn't limited to sexual behavior.
“Monkeypox is not known to be a sexually transmitted disease at this point,” Dr. Laurie Forlano, Deputy Director of VDH’s Office of Epidemiology said. “Other kinds of physical contact, just coming in contact with lesions on a person who’s infected with monkeypox, sharing towels, toothbrushes, other things like that, can also transmit disease.”
VDH officials say they are fortunate that tools, including testing, vaccines and treatments, are available.
Meanwhile, doctors say if you have symptoms, including rashes and flu-like symptoms, to contact your doctor or health department.
“What we’re doing is just trying to make sure that everybody out there knows that it’s not something to be scared of,” Light said. “It’s just something to be aware of, and if you come into contact with somebody who may have had it, to get help.”
VDH officials also revealed ways you can protect yourself against monkeypox. Strategies include frequently washing your hands, and if you're aware that someone you're close with has monkeypox, don't share items like silverware, bedding, clothing and toothbrushes.
Light said those that should consider a vaccine are folks who've been exposed or are at high risk of exposure.
He added those who are at high risk of monkeypox exposure include people who’ve had close sexual contact with others who may have had multiple partners.