How to Get Monkeypox Vaccines and Tests in Colorado

Since mid-May, Colorado, like many states, has seen a steady increase in monkeypox cases. The state health department has recorded 79 total cases, with 66 reported in July alone (though experts say that’s likely an undercount).

The current virus outbreak has alarmed members of high-risk groups and sparked an only-escalating public health response. This week, the Biden administration declared monkeypox a national emergency.

The designation opens up grants and more federal resources, including ordering more medical supplies for states to use. Gov. Jared Polis said Thursday Colorado would step up its response to the outbreak, including holding more vaccination clinics and increasing access to testing.

“We administer or distribute the extremely limited supply of vaccines that the federal government provides to us as soon as we receive them,” Polis said in a statement. “We will continue to advocate for more vaccines and are happy to hear that more are on the way.”

What is monkey pox?

Although rarely fatal, monkeypox can cause severe symptoms in those who catch it. People usually suffer from a flu-like illness followed by a rash or skin lesions or sores that can spread to all parts of the body.

Symptoms usually appear between seven and 14 days after exposure and last two to four weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Monkeypox was discovered in monkey populations in Africa in 1958. The original source of the disease remains unknown, according to the CDC. Researchers recorded the first human case in 1970.

In the current outbreak, the virus is spreading primarily among men who have sex with men, a group that includes people who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender and non-binary. However, transmission is not limited to people who have a specific sexual orientation or gender identity.

Monkeypox can be spread between anyone through close skin-to-skin contact with wounds or any fabric (clothing or bedding) used by someone with the disease. The virus can also spread through respiratory secretions.

“I think it’s critical for everyone to understand what’s going on with this virus,” said Dr. Sarah Rowan, an infectious disease specialist at Denver Health who led the system’s response to the outbreak. “There are communities with higher transmission. But anyone can be exposed.

Public health officials say one of the best ways to protect yourself is to get vaccinated against the disease if you’re in a high-risk group. There are also simple precautions you can take on a daily basis.

How to Get Vaccinated in Colorado

Currently, the primary way to get a vaccine is to fill out an online form from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The form opens and closes as the supply fluctuates, so check back frequently if the agency has suspended submissions.

Due to low supply, the CDPHE only offers appointments to members of high-risk groups. In this current outbreak, this list includes men who have sex with multiple other men and people who have been directly exposed to the virus.

Appointments are already sold out until August 13, so expect to wait.

The Colorado Department of Health has so far vaccinated about 2,000 people against the disease. The FDA-approved vaccine, Jynneos, is a two-dose series, but authorities have temporarily suspended second doses to help protect as many people as possible with a first dose.

On August 1, Colorado placed an order for 5,000 additional doses of the vaccine from federal stockpile. Officials say wait times for vaccination should decrease once that happens.

The state is also increasing the number of places people can get vaccinated. CDPHE has recruited more than 30 vendors across the state, who will begin administering vaccines as supply catches up to demand over the coming months.

How to get tested for monkeypox

The state recommends anyone with symptoms of monkeypox contact their health care provider to discuss testing.

According to the CDPHE, many providers can now submit PCR (swab) tests to commercial labs. The state lab also handled supplier testing. Results take approximately 48 hours.

If you don’t have a regular healthcare or insurance provider, you can contact a list of public health agencies and sexual health clinics on the CDPHE website. Most providers don’t test people who don’t have symptoms.

If you have symptoms, let your provider know before your visit. Wear a mask and cover any lesions with clothing or a bandage.

Like the vaccine supply, the state’s testing capacity has been limited in recent months. And it remains rare, said Dr. Rowan of Denver Health. Rowan and her team have been performing about 30 tests a week on patients with symptoms of monkeypox since mid-July, she said.

“There’s a general consensus that we should test more,” Rowan said. “We should have more negatives so we know we’re testing correctly and can get a better idea of ​​how far the outbreak has spread.”

Many urgent care clinics also offer testing, Rowan said.

If you test positive for monkeypox, you should self-isolate until symptoms resolve. There are treatments available.

How to protect yourself against monkeypox

Besides vaccination, doctors and public health experts say people can take a few steps to reduce their risk of contracting monkeypox. Most advice focuses on limiting skin-to-skin contact with people known to have the disease or showing symptoms.

The CDC recommends avoiding close contact with people who have a rash that may resemble monkeypox. Do not touch the rash, scabs, clothing, or bedding of someone with monkeypox. Do not kiss, hug, cuddle, or have sex with anyone who has symptoms of monkeypox.

Large gatherings also carry some risk of disease transmission. When deciding to attend, consider the degree of close, personal, skin-to-skin contact likely to occur at the event. Events where people are fully clothed are generally safer and lower risk.

Some companies have started to impose protective measures, such as closing locker rooms, to help reduce the risk.

Lakewood tattoo artist Cheyenne Nichols has started asking her clients to wear masks due to the nature of their work, which involves close skin contact. They have also started double cleaning everything in their work area and asking sick customers to reschedule their appointments.

“If I notice any lesions on someone’s hand or face, I will send the person home and ask them to reschedule,” Nichols said. “I think my clients are more comfortable in my chair knowing I’m doing everything I can to keep a safe space.”

Orientation is changing. Public health agencies, including the CDPHE, regularly release more information on safer practices for attending gatherings and intimate relationships as the outbreak develops.

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