There is no need to panic or stress according to local medical experts who recently discussed the national news stories coming out about the spread of monkeypox and the mystery surrounding kids being diagnosed with hepatitis.
While there are several pediatric hepatitis cases already reported in Colorado, the first monkeypox case was confirmed by state health officials on May 26.
Dr. Jim Neid, an infectious disease specialist with the Medical Center of Aurora, said he had tried to avoid the continued news reports about monkeypox and the fear the reports are creating.
After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, talk of another virus spreading across the nation may have Americans concerned and rightfully so. However, recent medical issues making national headlines are not to the level of COVID, Neid said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, monkeypox is a viral disease that occurs mostly in central and western Africa. It is called monkeypox because it was first identified in laboratory monkeys in 1958. The first human case of monkeypox was confirmed in 1970.
Neid said traditionally, monkeypox cases are associated with people linked to international travel.
The CDC announced that it is working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to investigate a case where a U.S. resident tested positive for monkeypox on May 18. The person tested positive after a trip to Canada.
On May 26, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Public Health confirmed Colorado may have its first case of monkeypox. A man who recently traveled to Canada is currently cooperating with health officials.
In a news release, CDPHE said, "The presumptive case is a young adult male who sought care in the Denver area. He is now isolating at home with his condition improving."
The CDC is also tracking the spread of the virus that has been reported since early May in countries where monkeypox is not normal, including Europe and other parts of North America.
Neid said as the CDC has announced it is watching the cases and tracking the spread of the rare virus, he does not feel there is a lot to be concerned about in Colorado or the rest of the nation.
Nonetheless, Neid said, if cases are being confirmed, it is important to note that it is a viral infection similar to a rash and does not require a lot of treatment or intervention.
Unlike a respiratory virus like COVID, Neid said monkeypox does not spread as easily. It requires a lot more up-close contact with an infected person to catch it.
“You might have some clusters, but nothing major,” he said. “Should there be an outbreak, it’s really containable.”
Symptoms of monkeypox include:
● Muscle aches
● Swollen lymph nodes
Within one to three days, the CDC says, a patient might develop a rash, which often begins on the face and spreads to other parts of the body.
Monkeypox can take up to four weeks to fully clear up.
“We want to reassure Coloradans that the risk to the public is low, but we also want them to know of the symptoms so that we can catch other cases as soon as possible,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist. “We are grateful for the collaborative efforts of the CDC, local public health agencies, and health care providers in learning about, treating, and investigating this case.”
The most important thing to remember, Neid said, is that if a person has traveled to Africa or Europe they should be on alert and if they are experiencing symptoms, it is important to quarantine.
Parents may be on high alert recently amid national reports of mystery hepatitis cases impacting kids. According to the CDC, as of May 26, the U.S. has confirmed that 180 pediatric cases of hepatitis are under investigation. Investigations into the cause of the mystery cases have been ongoing over the last seven months, the CDC reported.
According to the CDC, hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. The liver is a vital organ that processes nutrients, filters blood, and fights infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. In the U. S., the most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
Dr. Amy Feldman, the Children’s Hospital Colorado pediatric liver transplant medical director, said while the increased numbers may be alarming, especially as more news is coming out, it is important to stress that none of the pediatric cases have been serious enough to require a liver transplant or worse.
Feldman said Colorado with a handful of cases in Colorado, the numbers may increase because the Colorado Department of Human Services has asked health agencies to go back over possible cases dating to October 2021 to help research what is happening.
Feldman said hepatitis in children is not that uncommon, noting that while there are several types, it boils down to being an inflammation of the liver.
Since January, the state’s health department has reported 10 total hepatitis cases.
“There are a variety of reasons kids can get hepatitis,” Feldman said. “There have been some increased clusters, but I think what we are seeing right now is more about increased awareness. Parents should not be on heightened alert or having any sense of fear.”
Feldman said even if a child has a case of hepatitis, it is treatable and rarely turns into anything serious.
Hepatitis is confirmed through blood tests, Feldman said, noting there are symptoms parents can watch for if they think a child may have the condition. Those symptoms include:
● Loss of appetite
● Abdominal pain
● Dark urine
● Light-colored stools
(Editor's Note: This story was updated after a confirmed case of monkeypox was confrimed in Colorado.)
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