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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah doesn't have any of the vaccines for monkeypox, but there's no need to start stocking up since it should be available if needed from the federal government, public health officials said Tuesday.
At least six cases of the rare disease usually confined to Africa are suspected in the United States, including in two Salt Lake County men who traveled to Europe earlier this month to an area with monkeypox cases. Other cases involve men in New York, Florida, Washington and Massachusetts.
So far, only the Massachusetts case has been confirmed as monkeypox by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monday, a CDC official told reporters there has been a request for the release of one of the smallpox vaccines in the national stockpile to treat some of the high-risk contacts of the early patients.
Neither the Salt Lake County Health Department nor the Utah Department of Health has asked for the vaccines.
"Not yet," said Nicolas Rupp, county health department spokesman. "We are in the process of making sure our vaccination team has the proper supplies to receive and distribute the vaccine to specific individuals if it becomes necessary, but there is currently no reason for us to request it since we've had no local high-risk exposures."
Rupp said the county does have a share of what's known as the "strategic national stockpile" of critical medical supplies on hand to deal with emergencies, although not any smallpox vaccine. He said federal permission is required to access those supplies.
There is currently no reason for us to request (the vaccine) since we've had no local high-risk exposures.
–Nicolas Rupp, Salt Lake County Health Department
But Rupp said it would only take the federal government 12 to 24 hours to get smallpox vaccine to the county. That's "plenty of time," he said, since it is believed smallpox vaccine given within four days of exposure to monkeypox protects against developing the disease, and within 14 days, may reduce its severity.
The state doesn't have any of the vaccine because smallpox was eradicated, state health department spokeswoman Charla Haley said. She said it could take up to 72 hours to get smallpox vaccine from the federal government, but "there is no indication stockpiling smallpox vaccines is appropriate at this time."
Mass vaccination against monkeypox is not needed, according to the World Health Organization, which said the outbreak of the disease largely among gay or bisexual men can be controlled through good hygiene and safe sexual behavior, according to Reuters news service.
Monkeypox can be transmitted through sex and other close personal contact, as well as bedding and other materials. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes, along with a rash that turns into fluid-filled pustules that eventually scab over and fall off.
"We have a good stock of vaccine," Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, said during a virtual news conference, even though routine vaccination for smallpox ended in the United States in 1972.
She said there are two types of smallpox vaccine that can be used to prevent monkeypox in someone who's been exposed to the virus, with 100 million doses of the older version that carries some side effects available and 1,000 doses of a newer version available, although more are being manufactured.
"We are hoping to maximize vaccine distribution to those that we know would benefit from it," McQuiston said. "Those are people who've had contact with a known monkeypox patient — health care workers, very close personal contacts, and those in particular who might be at high risk for severe disease."