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As monkeypox cases rise, health officials caution Arkansans

The U.S. now has more monkeypox cases than any other country— with four cases reported in Arkansas. Health officials urge people to stay informed and safe.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The U.S. has more Monkeypox cases than any other country in the world, and currently, Arkansas has four reported cases.

Health officials have said it's not time to panic, but they do want to make sure people are well informed and safe.

"There's one pharmacy in Arkansas that is already carrying the vaccine," Nicki Hilliard with the Arkansas Pharmacist's Association said.

The vaccine can be found at Park West Pharmacy in West Little Rock. 

Though it is available, Hilliard said not everyone is eligible for the shot according to the CDC. 

"What they're recommending right now is only providing the vaccine for the very at-risk people," Hilliard added.

So what makes you at risk? 

The Arkansas Department of Health said that if you've been exposed to someone with Monkeypox or were at an event with confirmed cases, you are eligible for the vaccine. 

"They want them to get the vaccine within four days to try to prevent the illness. If it's between four days and two weeks, then that may not promise that it would prevent the illness, but it would lessen the severity of the illness," she said. 

Arkansas has a limited supply of the vaccine, but Hilliard expects that more will arrive soon. 

"They started out with an initial vaccine distribution of about 56,000 doses, and they expect 2 million by the end of the year, and then even more than that next year," she explained.

Dr. Jennifer Dillaha with the Arkansas Department of Health said the state has received about 800 doses.

"We have placed it in a few local health units and are placing it in additional health units as our supply allows," Dr. Dillaha said.

She also added that Monkeypox is mostly spread through intimate contact from male to male, but she, and other health experts, don't want the disease to be stigmatized. 

 "I am concerned about that you know in public health we want to treat everyone with respect and take care of their public health needs, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or whatever," she said.

The CDC has confirmed two pediatric cases in the US, as well as a small number of infections in pregnant women.

Symptoms of monkeypox can include, fever, headache, muscle pain, and a rash, which occur seven to 14 days after exposure. Typically, the rash starts one to three days after the other symptoms start. 

However, the rash has been the initial symptom for some people, and the only symptom for others. The rash may be located on or near the genitals or anus but could also be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, or face. 

The sores can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, the highest risk group for contracting monkeypox is men who have sex with men. However, anyone can contract the illness. 

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