The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported nearly 10,400 cases nationwide as of Wednesday — mostly New York, California, Florida, Texas and Georgia, which each have at least 700 cases, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Ohio Department of Health director, told reporters Thursday.
Ohio had 75 total cases statewide as of Wednesday, mostly in its larger metropolitan centers — the first of which was reported on June 13. The Cleveland Department of Public Health announced Thursday that there were 21 cases in the city.
But this means the state is lower on the priority list for national vaccine distribution than those harder-hit states, he said.
Ohio as of last week had received about 4,200 doses of the two-shot vaccine — enough to vaccinate a little more than 2,000 people.
“This is simply not enough supply to vaccinate all at-risk Ohioans,” Vanderhoff said. “Therefore, our strategy in the face of these national limitations has been to get available supply out as quickly as possible to Ohio communities with the highest case counts and the highest risk for spread.”
Those include Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, he said.
More vaccines coming to Ohio
Another 5,400 doses arrived in Ohio this week and, in the coming weeks, officials expect a total of 13,560 doses to have been delivered.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week issued an emergency use authorization allowing the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine to be administered just beneath the top layer of skin, rather than in the fatty layer beneath the skin. That’s expected to allow health officials to further stretch the available supply about five times further and “enhance our ability to provide the vaccine to more people,” Vanderhoff said.
A study has suggested the levels of antibodies and protection offered through both injection methods are “about the same,” said Dr. Joe Gastaldo, medical director of infectious diseases at OhioHealth.
“It’s important to for people to realize if you get a vaccine, it’s not a monkeypox ‘free pass.’ … You still have to wait to be fully vaccinated. That’s two weeks after the second dose.
“We don’t know with certainty if it’s going to prevent people from getting monkeypox. It’s possible they could still get it, but their case will be milder.”
Where are the local monkeypox cases?
Summit County Public Health on Thursday announced the county’s first case of monkeypox.
According to a release from the department, the case was confirmed in a Summit County resident with out-of-state exposure. There are no direct contacts to the case in Summit County, the release states.
The patient will complete their isolation period out of state.
Monkeypox cases have also been reported in Cuyahoga, Lake and Lorain counties in Northeast Ohio.
Vanderhoff said he expects the Ohio Department of Health website to launch a new dashboard later this month showing where Ohio’s monkeypox cases were reported. The website currently hosts a list of frequently asked questions about the virus.
How does monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox spreads through close skin-to-skin contact like hugging and kissing, as well as by sharing bed sheets, towels and clothes. It can also spread via respiratory droplets during close and prolonged face-to-face contact.
“We’re not seeing monkeypox transmitted in grocery stores or anything like that,” Gastaldo said Thursday. “You really have to have close contact with someone [who is infected].”
The CDC has said 99% of U.S. monkeypox cases are among men, and 94% of cases are men who had intimate or sexual contact with other men, Vanderhoff said.
“We want to engage with that community to give them the information they need to protect themselves,” Gastaldo said.
Those at higher risk of disease include women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people with advanced HIV infections and the immunocompromised.
Only 8% of people who contracted the disease required hospitalization, and there have been no reported deaths, he said. Most cases don’t require treatment, but the antiviral medication Tecovirimat, or TPOXX, is available.
Symptoms include fever, body aches, chills, fatigue and pimple-like bumps on many parts of the body, often starting near the genitals.
Last week, the White House declared monkeypox a public health emergency in an effort to free up federal funding and resources to fight the virus.
Back to school with COVID-19
Vanderhoff also delivered an update on the state’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The “summer wave” of new coronavirus infections across Ohio led by the virus’ omicron BA.4 and BA.5 strains now appears to have “leveled off,” Vanderhoff said Thursday, with many vaccinated people who contracted COVID-19 showing “mild to no illness,” he added.
“While cases rose this summer, the number of those requiring oxygen or going into intensive care units stayed really low,” Vanderhoff said.
The CDC is soon expected to amend its quarantine recommendations for schools.
Ohio’s guidance is also changing, Vanderhoff said Thursday. Students who fall ill will be encouraged to stay home for five days after testing positive for coronavirus. The state is also dropping its “Mask to Stay, Test to Play” guidance.
ODH recommends students who feel ill stay home and “away from others” and to consider keeping rapid COVID-19 antigen tests on hand to determine whether children are “merely under the weather” or COVID-positive.
Also, the state’s declining percentage over the past two years of kindergarten-age children who have received the required vaccinations is giving health officials pause.
“Some of this is almost certainly due to the impact of COVID-19. Many people nationally missed routine wellness visits and schools were doing remote learning, lessening the opportunity and urgency [for parents] to get their kids vaccinated,” Vanderhoff said.
Each year, more than 1,000 Ohio children come down with diseases that “could have been preventable” — maladies like whooping cough, chickenpox and pneumococcal illnesses.
“Recently, there have been several scary examples of what can happen if we don’t remain vigilant about keeping vaccinations up-to-date,” Vanderhoff said.
Earlier this year, the state confirmed a pediatric case of measles, though it did not lead to a wider outbreak as in 2014 when the state confirmed 382 cases.