ST. LOUIS – The St. Clair County health department reported its first probable case of monkeypox on Thursday. The health department for the City of St. Louis reported its first probable case earlier in the week.  

“We’re getting a lot of questions about monkeypox,” said Dr. Joe Cherabie, Washington University infectious disease physician at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “It’s hitting close to home.”

Symptoms can begin as flu-like and lead to skin lesions. Some describe those lesions as pimples or blister-like rashes.

“These skin lesions can be painful, and they can stick around for two to four weeks and remain infectious for two to four weeks,” said Cherabie. 

He said anyone showing symptoms should isolate from others. They should avoid sharing items, such as clothing or bedding.

“If you do have active lesions, you can remain infections until those lesions scab over and heal over,” said Cherabie.

He said a majority of monkeypox cases so far have involved close physical contact and have involved men who have sex with men.

“Any sexually active individual with prolonged contact with any of these lesions could contract monkeypox so, this isn’t a gay disease. It’s not limited to the gay population,” said Cherabie. “The virus doesn’t care what your sexuality is or what your sexual practices are.”

Cherabie said he encourages anyone with symptoms to contact their local health care provider. A vaccine already exists for monkeypox. It was widely administered decades ago as part of the effort to eliminate smallpox. There is an effort underway to ramp up the production of the vaccine to prevent widespread outbreaks.

“The sooner that we can get people who are at an increased likelihood for contracting monkeypox vaccinated, then I think that’s going to be the best thing to prevent further spread,” said Cherabie.

He said that even if someone is exposed, the sooner they are vaccinated, the less likely the severity of their disease. Cherabie said that lessens the likelihood that a person will spread monkeypox to someone else.

Testing is available through local health departments. Quest Diagnostics is providing monkeypox testing. 

“We commend the HHS and CDC for spearheading public-private collaboration to mobilize response to the current monkeypox outbreak,” said Jay G. Wohlgemuth, M.D., Senior Vice President, R&D, Medical and Chief Medical Officer, Quest Diagnostics. “Quest’s expertise in infectious disease testing, national scale, and relationships with half the country’s physicians and health systems is a vital complement to the efforts of the CDC and other public health labs to combat the monkeypox outbreak in the United States.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of broad access to quality laboratory testing for emerging infectious diseases,” said Ruth Clements, Vice President and General Manager, Infectious Disease, Quest Diagnostics. “Quest’s laboratory developed test complements the CDC test, supporting the public effort with an automated test option for the monkeypox virus.”

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