AUSTIN (KXAN) — There are now more than 80 confirmed monkeypox cases in Texas, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you think you may have the virus, here’s what you need to know.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
Early symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle and back aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. Those can quickly become more severe.
“Then this rash develops, which starts out as small red spots, but then turns into these blister-like skin lesions. And those are painful, they can be very painful,” Dr. Jan Patterson, a professor of medicine, infectious diseases at UT Health San Antonio, said.
Additionally, a monkeypox patient in Austin said he experienced extreme pain going to the bathroom. The CDC put out new guidance last month that detailed U.S. patients reporting pain in or around the anus and rectum (including rectal bleeding) or the feeling of needing a bowel movement even though the bowels are empty.
Where do I get tested?
A spokesperson for Austin Public Health said there are two scenarios where you should consider testing: You are showing symptoms, you have been exposed to a confirmed positive case of monkeypox.
“We are recommending right now that people reach out to their health care provider, if they have one,” William Malm, the public information specialist for APH, said.
For people who do not have a health care provider, APH is asking you call its nurse line at 512-972-5560.
APH said after a provider or clinic does a test, it would be sent to APH, and they would bump it up to the state for an approval process. Once the specimen clears that approval process, the state does presumptive testing.
After that, it’s the CDC that puts out official confirmed cases of monkeypox, though that full process can take days, if not weeks. APH has put out monkeypox testing requirements and information for providers on its website.
“While you’re waiting for the results, please stay home and quarantine,” Malm said. “We want to try to limit the spread of this as much as possible.”
Can I get a vaccine?
Right now, there are a limited number of vaccines available nationwide, and they are only available to people who have been contact traced to a confirmed case of the virus.
Austin Public Health requests the vaccines from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) and federal government ships them. They cannot be requested by the general public.
“We currently are vaccinating people who are identified as close contacts of people that have been confirmed to have monkeypox. As we receive more vaccine supply, we have plans in place to scale up our operations,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, the Austin-Travis County health authority, said in a media Q&A last week.
What treatment options are available?
TPOXX, the FDA-approved treatment for smallpox, is being used for monkeypox. An Austin man told us he was unable to get the treatment after getting monkeypox. That same difficulty is being reported around the nation, as was highlighted by NPR this week.
“We are receiving doses of TPOXX,” Malm said.
He said APH is working to provide doses of the treatment both to people who have monkeypox and people who have contact with someone who does.
“It’s a rather arduous process, because it is a study technically, and so a lot of paperwork has to be done,” Patterson said.
She recommended people experiencing pain use anti-inflammatory pain medications such as Ibuprofen, or get a prescription for narcotic pain medications if the pain is severe.
For rectal lesions, Patterson recommended stool softener and for pain in urination, bladder anesthetic (such as Pyridium).
Patterson also said sitting in a warm sitz bath could help reduce the pain of the lesions — something the Austin man we spoke to said was effective for his symptoms.