How Montgomery Co. is responding to monkeypox

Health officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, are working to track cases of monkeypox, while contacting those who may have been exposed and asking them to get vaccinated.

“Currently, the vaccinations are limited to known contacts who are identified through our public health investigations — basically, contact tracing as we’ve done with COVID, or risk exposure assessments,” said Sean O’Donnell, program administrator for the county’s public health emergency preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The hope is that vaccines can be made more widely available, O’Donnell said. “I know I speak for all of public health. That’s the goal we’d like to get to.”

There are plans to expand the county’s vaccination program as soon as possible.

“We are working on a preregistration screening form like we did with COVID, so we can identify individuals who are at risk or interested in receiving vaccine. And then as more vaccine comes in, we’ll be able to contact them from that list,” he said.

He also addressed questions about how monkeypox is transmitted.

“Transmissions are most likely to occur as direct contact” with an individual, “or with their lesions, even as they begin to heal,” O’Donnell said.

While the virus can be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact that may occur during sex, O’Donnell said, it’s not a sexually transmitted disease, but it is occurring between partners who have close physical contact.

The virus can also be transmitted through contact with inanimate objects, such as towels or bedsheets, O’Donnell said.

As of Monday, 71 cases had been documented in Maryland, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During Monday’s briefing with Montgomery County Council President Gabe Albornoz, O’Donnell told reporters that state officials were not providing information on where the cases were due to various privacy concerns.

“This is not unusual,” O’Donnell said. “This is a practice that has occurred in the past with other diseases.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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