Monkeypox in Washington: Cases doubling every week

Washington State is continuing to see a growing number of monkeypox (MPV) cases, health officials said during a Thursday news conference. 

As of this week, 166 people in Washington have tested positive for orthopoxvirus, including one person who was exposed in another state, but tested positive in Washington, according to the Washington State Department of Health. 

A majority of those cases are in King County, which has 144 cases.

All positive cases of orthopoxvirus are considered likely monkeypox.

"Cases in Washington State have been doubling roughly every seven to eight days," said Chief Science Officer Dr. Tao Kwan-Gett. 

Officials emphasized that anyone can get MPV. So far, all the cases have been in adults and is disproportionately affecting the LGBTQ+ community, particularly men who are gay and bisexual, but WA Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah stressed anyone can get MPV regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

"We know this has happened before. It’s happened in almost every infectious disease at the start and the one everybody is obviously thinking about IS HIV/AIDs, and that is such a critical learning lesson 40 years ago for us in this country, about what we need to do differently when we are looking at that," said Dr. Shah. "This is a human disease, and it’s not limited to any community."

The Department of Health's Michele Roberts said the state is working to obtain and distribute its limited monkeypox vaccine supply. 

The state has ordered and given out 6,800 doses of the vaccine, and more than 17,000 doses will be arriving in the next 4-6 weeks.  

"We’re working to get as many first doses out as possible to communities most at risk. If you think you’ve been exposed to MPV or you are at high risk, please contact your local healthcare provider or your local health jurisdiction to learn how you can get a vaccine," said Assistant Secretary Roberts.

Also on Thursday, the U.S. will declare a public health emergency to bolster the federal response to the outbreak of monkeypox that has infected more than 6,600 Americans, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Colleen Magana is a brow and lash beauty aesthetician and the owner of Seattle Beauty Babe. She created a post on her social media business page warning clients to stay home if they have any symptoms resembling the monkeypox virus.

"This is really serious. We need to get the news out there and stop it before it spreads even further, especially when I’m seeing 7 to 10 clients a day and in the beauty industry where there's a lot of skin-to-skin contact, so it’s really important that my clients know," said Magana, who is also now waiving cancellations for people who suspect they have the virus. "Don’t feel bad at all, because I don’t want that. I don’t want to spread it to other people."