ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza provided an update following the Thursday detection of the area’s first case of monkeypox.

The first case of monkeypox in Monroe County was reported by members of the county’s health department Thursday afternoon. Although unidentified, a local male resident was confirmed to have contracted the virus and is currently isolated, according to public health officials.

“The most important thing to remember here is that this is not a cause of alarm,” Dr. Mendoza said. “This is not another COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to health officials, the risk of contagion for the general public currently remains low.

Older adults, people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, and children under the age of 8 are at higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms if they contract the virus.

Although monkeypox is not classified as a sexually-transmitted disease, authorities say patterns of exposure show that men who have sex with men are at higher risk of contracting the virus.

“We are not in a crisis, we are asking everyone to stay informed and contact your local health provider if you are at risk,” Dr. Mendoza said.

The commissioner also said it’s important to remember that monkeypox is not a novel virus. Mendoza said there is a lot more knowledge about this virus than we did covid and that the risk of contracting the disease is very minimal.

“People who are not experiencing any of the symptoms, the current assumption is that there is no reason to worry. This is not like other viral illnesses like chickenpox.” The duration of the isolation really depends on that individual’s healing progress — unlike COVID.”

According to Mendoza, the individual who contracted the first case of monkeypox in Monroe County is believed to have traveled outside the area prior to infection.

The Monroe County Health Department listed the following ways that the disease can spread:

  • Direct contact with monkeypox sores or rashes through intimate or skin-to-skin contact
  • Contact with objects or fabrics (e.g., clothing, bedding, towels) that have been used by someone with monkeypox
  • Respiratory droplets or oral fluids from someone with monkeypox; historically, these respiratory droplets can only travel a few feet and are of primary concern among those who have very close or prolonged contact

Officials urge residents who are at higher risk of contracting the virus to ask their sexual partners whether they have a rash or other symptoms consistent with monkeypox.

Symptoms, according to the county’s health department include rashes, bumps, or blisters, along with fever and headaches, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes.

“Unlike COVID it can take longer,” Dr. Mendoza said. “After two weeks of exposure, you can come down with illness, which is what we believe. The best thing you can do is keep track of those around you who you may think have been exposed to the disease.”

Rashes or bumps often occur in the genital or peri-anal area and may take place without fever or other flu-like symptoms, according to officials.

Those experiencing the aforementioned symptoms are asked to stay home.

Where are the vaccines?

According to HHS Data, more than 135,000 vaccine doses have been distributed nationwide Thursday. The doses come from Bavarian Nordic’s JYNNEOS, an FDA-licensed vaccine indicated for the prevention of smallpox and monkeypox.

Doses are available for those who are most at threat, including people with close contact of someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox, those who have had sex with a partner diagnosed with monkeypox within the past 14 days, and those who have had multiple sex partners in the past 14 days in an area with monkeypox spread, according to the CDC.

Dr. Mendoza said that, in the coming weeks, there may be more capacity to vaccinate the public.

“I anticipate the demand to increase. Certainly, we expect that as more people become exposed to monkeypox, we will see more people who are eligible for the vaccine,” said Dr. Mendoza.

As of Thursday, New York State has received the largest number of monkeypox vaccines per capita. That number accounts for more than three times the U.S. average.

Monroe County health officials have yet to direct residents to a specific vaccine source.

Full Thursday Press Conference


Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.