Monkeypox Lands In Michigan at Be Well Medical Center in Berkley: Here's What You Need to Know

Dr. Paul Benson reiterates that, no, this is not a 'gay disease'

Jason A. Michael

The inevitable has happened. A man was recently diagnosed with the monkeypox virus at Dr. Paul Benson’s Be Well Medical Center in Berkley. It is believed to be the first known case in the state.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is confirming the test results. But the man, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, tested presumptive positive for Orthopoxvirus, from which monkeypox stems. According to Dr. Benson, the man is from Oakland County and had recently traveled domestically. Out of privacy concerns, that is all the information he would release.

Benson called being the first medical center in the state to report the monkeypox virus in a patient a "dubious honor." He went on to say that monkeypox reaching Michigan is “really not surprising since it is a contagious condition and people are back to traveling internationally.”

As of yesterday, the CDC reports 395 confirmed cases of monkeypox. So far, it has traveled to 30 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. Globally, 5,323 cases have been confirmed in 52 different countries.

Monkeypox is not, as Pride Source previously reported, a "gay disease." Benson said monkeypox likely escaped Africa, where it originated, from a gay man who subsequently spread it to other gay men through intimate or close contact.

“There has been a concern that monkeypox is a MSM (men who have sex with men) disease and [that] perhaps it will become the next HIV epidemic,” said Benson. “Since identification of monkeypox in 1970, that has not been the case.”

Even though it’s been widely reported that the monkeypox virus has been appearing in large numbers of MSM, Benson said such reporting may be misleading. “The number of monkeypox cases reported thus far are way too few to make this correlation to gay men,” he said. “The CDC cautions physicians to be on the lookout for monkeypox without regard to gender or sexual orientation.”

Monkeypox is spread by direct contact or from respiratory droplets through prolonged contact. “It’s harder to contract than Covid and easier to get than HIV,” Benson said. “HIV requires a ‘fluid’ exchange and monkeypox does not.” Symptoms of monkeypox can sometimes imitate the flu, and the virus usually produces a rash or sores.  A person remains contagious until the rash has disappeared and the sores have scabbed over and fallen off.

Think you might have monkeypox? Here’s what to do. 

If you suspect that you may have monkeypox, you should isolate at home, said Benson. If you have an active rash or open sores, you should stay in a separate room or area in your house if you live with others. And you should not only separate yourself from other people, but from pets, too.

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While there are no treatments specifically for monkeypox infections, “Monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar” said Benson, which means that “antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections.” Tecovirimat is one such antiviral that may be recommended for people likely to get severely ill, such as patients with weakened immune systems. But in most cases, the virus goes away on its own within a few weeks.

The first case in the state

It was Benson’s physician’s assistant, Mark Rosen, who saw the patient who presented with symptoms of monkeypox. Rosen said he recognized the patient likely had the virus “right off the bat. He was showing a bunch of pustules all over his body, on his arms and legs, and a couple on his face.” Rosen added that “the minute he showed me, I thought about monkeypox, and before I could say that, he said, ‘I’m afraid this could be monkeypox.”

Rosen asked additional staff at the medical center to examine the patient. Then there were a series of calls made to the Michigan Department of Health to learn the logistics of testing and how to proceed. The patient, he said, was in the center for quite a while.

Doctors and physician’s assistants, too, of course, train to be ready for anything, and Rosen said he was not surprised to see a case of monkeypox in Michigan.

“I was kind of mentally prepared to see it at some point,” he said. “I wasn’t in too much shock because we’re used to things like this with Covid nowadays.”

Vaccine on the way but not in state yet

As of now, Michigan health officials have not received any doses of Jynneos, the smallpox vaccine that is also used to prevent monkeypox or reduce its severity, which is being kept in the Strategic National Stockpile. Detroit Free Press reports that, per the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), the state will order the Jynneos vaccine “as appropriate.”

According to a White House fact sheet, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expects to make 296,000 doses available to the nation in the coming weeks. More than 750,000 doses will be made available over the summer, followed by 500,000 this fall. In total, 1.6 million vaccine doses should be available this year.

In addition, the White House reports, states and territories may also request a second smallpox vaccine, FDA-approved ACAM2000.


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