EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – As a few monkeypox cases surface across Texas and New Mexico, one local health official explains the virus and some of the main causes for transmission.

University of New Mexico Hospital epidemiologist Meghan Brett said monkeypox belongs to the same viruses as smallpox and though it is less dangerous, she adds that the rash can be intensely uncomfortable.

“It’s basically fever and a rash,” she said. “The rash goes through various stages of development. Often, it starts off flat and then it becomes more like a fluid-filled vesicle. It is more painful, in my understanding, than chicken pox and it’s more deep-seated.”

The viral disease that is typically seen in West and Central Africa is primarily passed through skin-to-skin contact.

“More intense contact is probably what’s needed for transmission. That can be contact with the skin lesions themselves, or it can be transmitted by respiratory secretions, but it’s really more prolonged face-to-face contact where that’s going to happen,” said Dr. Brett.

Brett emphasizes that the monkeypox virus is much harder to transmit than the coronavirus. “Casual contact is not going to be the mode by which this generally gets transmitted.”

According to Dr. Brett, it takes an average of eight days following exposure for an infection to appear although in some cases it may take up to three weeks and people may remain infectious for up to four weeks.

High-risk patients may be treated with tecovirimat an FDA-approved medication initially used for smallpox.

The monkeypox vaccine is available through the New Mexico Department of Health. Those who have been exposed to the virus may qualify for the vaccine.

Here are some of the ways to avoid contracting the virus according to Dr. Brett: avoid close skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox and be aware of any new rash on your body. Practice safe sex and ask your partner about any possible symptoms.

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