Princeton health officials are urging residents to stay informed even as outbreaks of the monkeypox virus are declining across America.
Jeff Grosser, Princeton’s deputy administrator and health director, said the health department, which handles all diseases and chronic conditions in the community, has been investigating confirmed and probable cases of monkeypox in the municipality.
And “although the death rate is low [typically less than 3%]”Monkeypox infections can cause painful symptoms, and isolation away from family, friends and absence from work contributes to the social isolation we’ve seen with COVID-19,” he said.
Grosser emphasized that everyone should have some level of concern about monkeypox, a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
People with monkeypox develop a rash and may experience fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, muscle and back pain, headache and respiratory symptoms, according to the CDC.
“This level of concern should reflect ongoing transmission in the community, as anyone can contract monkeypox with proper exposure,” Grosser said. “Residents must continue to be informed of what is happening around them in terms of health and disease trends.”
The CDC, in its latest technical report from late September, said the slowdown in the outbreak’s growth is likely due to a combination of factors that include vaccinations, behavioral change and possible infection, acquired immunity.
However, monkeypox transmission in the United States is unlikely to be eliminated in the near future, according to the federal agency.
New Jersey, which suffered its first confirmed case of monkeypox this summer, reported 722 probable or confirmed cases of the disease — 22 of them in Mercer County — as of Oct. 4.
The Princeton Health Department is now providing vaccinations to individuals with confirmed exposure to cases of monkeypox.
They also provide vaccination clinics for those without confirmed exposure but may have been exposed or are at high risk of exposure.
The department recently completed a clinic on Oct. 4 in partnership with the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice in Princeton and will continue monkeypox vaccinations for the foreseeable future.
“We will continue to provide monkeypox vaccinations to residents identified as having confirmed exposures.” It’s a public health strategy called ring vaccination,” Grosser said.
“The strategy was implemented for most of the smallpox vaccine campaign. It’s a process where all contacts and communities around a known case are vaccinated.”
He noted that New Jersey has been using a form of ring vaccination strategy since the monkeypox vaccine was made available to local health departments over the summer.
“The ring vaccination method, combined with careful contact tracing, seems to work in areas where we don’t identify large, clustered outbreaks,” Grosser said.
Educating the public about monkeypox, continuing to implement community prevention strategies while maintaining preparedness for disease outbreaks will continue to be used, according to Grosser.
“This means continuing to support public health efforts so that we are ready to respond vigilantly to follow-up and vaccine administration when needed,” he said.
Groser recommends that residents avoid close skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
“Avoid contact with objects and materials that have been used by a person with monkeypox [do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox, do not handle or touch the bedding, towels or clothing of a person with monkeypox]and our favorite public health prevention strategy, wash your hands often,” he said.