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'We do have a vaccine': Local infectious disease physician updates monkeypox status in St. Louis area

Infectious disease experts say the newest formulation of the smallpox vaccine is effective against monkeypox.

ST. LOUIS — Major cities, like New York, are seeing thousands of monkeypox cases.

The St. Louis area has a low threat, but physicians predict it will spread.

Washington University Infectious Disease Physician with Barnes Jewish Hospital Joseph Cherabie said there are three confirmed monkeypox cases in the St. Louis region.

"It is still present amongst our community and we're expecting increased spread in the coming days and weeks," Cherabie said.

He described monkeypox as being a "cousin" to smallpox. Prior to the 1980s, the smallpox vaccine was regularly administered.

"Luckily for us, the vaccine for smallpox works against Monkeypox, and so we do have a vaccine," Cherabie said.

There are two different formulations of the smallpox vaccine. The newer one, known as the Jynneous vaccine is more widely used.

"You don't have the risk of the same side effects as the other vaccine. It's much easier to give, and it involves giving two shots four weeks apart from one another," Cherabie said.

In theory, Dr. Cherabie said if you were previously vaccinated for smallpox, you should have some protection against monkeypox.

"That having been said, if you have been previously vaccinated against smallpox, and you do have an exposure to monkeypox, we do recommend getting a post-exposure vaccination with the newer formulation of the vaccine," Cherabie said.

Monkeypox symptoms include flu, fever and what's most commonly seen are the blister-like lesions.

Ninety-five percent of the cases are amongst men involved with same-sex practices, according to a new paper in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

"We need to prioritize gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with men right now, but also be aware that it can spread to other individuals as well," Cherabie said.

The virus spreads from exposure to the lesions. A person is still considered infectious until their lesions have burst, crusted and completely healed.

"We have the ability to get vaccine and provide vaccine for all individuals who are a direct exposure, but with the limited supply that we have right now, that is the only population that we can currently give vaccine to," Cherabie said.

Monkeypox testing is available. Check with your primary care physician, urgent care or the County and City Health Departments.

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