ORLANDO, Fla. — President Joe Biden declared monkeypox a public health emergency for the entire country Thursday.
Local health departments have started to receive vaccines as the number of new cases continues to climb in Central Florida.
Appointments for monkeypox vaccines opened in Orange County Tuesday and are already completely booked.
Florida-based Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Aftab Khan says a case of monkeypox starts with flu-like symptoms then develops into a rash over time.
“It can put you out of work for three to four weeks,” Dr. Khan said. “It’s highly painful.”
Orange County leads all others in Central Florida with 34 cases currently being reported.
Seminole County checks in second with five cases. Osceola is currently reporting three, Volusia County has two cases. Brevard and Flagler Counties are each reporting a single confirmed case of monkeypox so far.
In all, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are currently more than 6,600 cases in the United States and 525 total in the state of Florida.
When asked about the availability of vaccines, health departments in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties each said they’ve received some.
“Currently, the FDA has approved two vaccines for monkeypox,” Dr. Khan said. “But we have a very limited supply.”
The vaccines in all three counties are currently only available for people who have been exposed to the virus. Dr. Khan says that’s due to CDC guidelines.
“Because we have such a limited supply of this vaccine, they want only confirmed or suspected cases.” Dr. Khan said.
Dr. Khan says it’s important to put people who were exposed or those who are already infected at the front of the line because receiving the vaccine within four days of exposure can prevent the disease from developing.
“It’s not 100 percent that you will not get it, but after four to 15 days, it can prevent you from having severity of the illness,” Dr. Khan said.
The Department of Health in Orange County says they could receive more of the vaccine soon. Osceola County’s health department says they’ve only received a small amount.
Dr. Khan notes that for most people, monkeypox isn’t deadly and is not likely to lead to another pandemic.
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