How to get tested and vaccinated in Denver

Colorado had recorded 79 confirmed cases of monkeypox — with 55 of those reported in Denver — as of Thursday, when federal health officials declared the virus a public health emergency as the spread shows no signs of slowing down.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found just a handful of monkey pox cases in May and June, followed by 66 infections in July, as more labs offered testing. It’s not clear whether the concentration of cases in Denver reflects who is infected or who is being tested.

The monkeypox vaccine supply remains limited in Colorado and it is not available to everyone. Government Jared Polis said on Thursday the state has 30 providers that have signed up to offer vaccines as soon as there are more doses to hand out.

“We manage or distribute the extremely limited supply of vaccines that the federal government gives us as soon as we receive them. We will continue to advocate for more vaccines and are pleased to hear more are on the way,” he said in a press release.

Nationally, more than 6,600 people have contracted monkey pox.

dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said it’s hard to know if the number of cases is increasing faster because more people are being tested, or if the spread is really accelerating.

“We really encourage anyone who has symptoms of what might be monkey pox to get tested,” she said.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about monkeypox, testing, and vaccines:

What is monkey pox?

Monkeypox is a viral cousin of smallpox, but luckily it’s not nearly as deadly. It has been identified in animals in parts of Africa and periodically occurs in humans. (Scientists called it monkey pox because they happened to find it in primates used for research, but now believe that rodents are its natural host.)

Early symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and exhaustion, although some people only experience the rash.

In previous outbreaks, the rash tended to start on the face, but this time more people are seeing it in the genital or anal area. The bumps can look like acne or common sexually transmitted diseases, so if you notice a new rash, get it checked out.

It’s unlikely to lead to hospitalization or death, but can be quite painful, according to people who have recovered from it.

How does monkeypox spread?

Skin-to-skin contact is the primary mode of transmission, and most of that contact was sexual in this outbreak. It is also possible for people to get the virus by touching objects that are rubbed against a person’s body (such as towels or sheets). It is not yet clear whether the virus spreads through semen or vaginal secretions.

Scientists aren’t quite sure how well the virus can spread through saliva, but interactions without close contact appear to have a low risk.

Can I get vaccinated?

Colorado has a limited supply of vaccine doses available to people aged 18 and older who know they have been exposed to monkeypox, and to adult men who have had multiple male sexual partners or an anonymous partner in the past two weeks.

More than 90% of cases in the US have been found in gay and bisexual men after the virus took hold in that community, although a small number of people platonic living in the same household as an infected person have contracted the virus.

Since there’s nothing inherently linking the virus to sex between men, public health officials are concerned it could pass into groups at higher risk for serious illness, such as pregnant women.

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