Denise Fair Razo
Detroit’s Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair Razo speaks about the first probable case of monkeypox in the city in a social media video posted to the health office’s website. (City of Detroit)

The state’s largest city is urging calm and vigilance in response to its first probable case of the monkeypox virus. 

Detroit’s Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair Razo told BridgeDetroit that city health officials were informed late Wednesday that a Detroit resident had contracted the virus and immediately began contact tracing and a case investigation. The department is encouraging others who are related to the infected individual to isolate and monitor for symptoms, she said. 

Fair Razo stressed that the risk to the general public is “low,” but there are signs and symptoms of monkeypox that residents should be cognizant of, as well as how the virus is transmitted. 

Monkeypox, which presents with a contagious rash, spreads through close skin to skin contact or from direct contact with the lesions, Fair Razo said. Signs and symptoms are often mild and could include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. 

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the rash “looks like pimples or blisters” and it appears “on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.”

The disease is contagious only when a rash is present and up until scabs heal and fall off, which typically falls within the range of two to four weeks. 

“At this time, anyone can contract and spread monkeypox through prolonged, close skin to skin contact,” said Fair Razo, adding the virus is not as transmissible as others, like COVID-19. “If you put your hand on a doorknob, you aren’t going to get monkeypox that way.”

“It’s important to educate yourself on monkeypox and also to be smart and be aware. If you see someone who has a rash, it’s probably not a good idea to be relatively close to that individual,” she said. “It’s important to use common sense. If someone has an open wound, you shouldn’t be touching that open wound.”

Fair Razo said she’s urging individuals who believe that they might have been infected to call their physician or, if they are sick, to visit an emergency room. 

“If you have been exposed to someone who has a confirmed case of monkeypox and you are experiencing some symptoms, it’s important for you to seek medical attention so you can be tested,” Fair Razo noted in a video on the Health Department’s Facebook page. “Isolate while waiting for test results and until all of your symptoms have resolved, for two to four weeks.”

The CDC has said it’s not clear how people have been exposed to the virus, but early data suggest that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men represent a high number of cases. 

Fair Razo said “sexual orientation doesn’t matter,” anyone is at risk for contracting monkeypox.

“I want to make sure it’s clear, I don’t want a certain group to feel that this is a viral infection that affects one specific community. That’s not true,” she said. 

Fair Razo said to minimize the risk, avoid close skin to skin contact with individuals infected with the virus and avoid sharing or touching eating utensils or cups, bedding, towels or clothing. She also recommended frequent hand washing. 

As of Thursday, the virus had been detected in 7,594 individuals globally, according to the CDC. Of the overall cases, about 700 monkeypox cases have been confirmed in the United States, with the first detected on May 18. It has since been found in more than 50 other countries. 

Michigan reported last month that an Oakland County resident had come down with the state’s  first confirmed case of monkeypox.

On Saturday, Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services, said in an email that the initial case out of Oakland County has been confirmed by the CDC. Two other cases, Detroit’s and a second in Oakland County, are probable and have been sent to the CDC for confirmatory testing.

The U.S. the Department of Health and Human Services has said it would distribute 1.6 million doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine nationwide this year to curb the spread of monkeypox. 

The federal government, Fair Razo said, is working with healthcare providers and local health departments, including the City of Detroit, to provide supplies of the vaccine.

The CDC website notes that the JYNNEOS supply is limited, although more is expected in the coming weeks and months. There is ample supply of a second vaccine, ACAM2000, but the CDC said it shouldn’t be administered to individuals with weakened immune systems, certain skin conditions or those who are pregnant. 

Data isn’t yet available on the effectiveness of the monkeypox vaccines in the ongoing outbreak.

Fair Razo said Friday it’s unclear when Michigan or Detroit’s health office would be receiving doses of the monkeypox vaccine or how much.

“The only people who need to be vaccinated now are people who have been exposed to monkeypox,” Fair Razo stressed. “We want to make sure that’s very clear. We don’t want folks to panic.”

Detroit residents or medical providers with questions or concerns can call the Detroit Health Department’s nurse hotline from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at (313) 876-4444 or send an email to DHDoutbreak@detroitmi.gov.

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