New Case of Mpox Detected in Travis County
UT Health Austin infectious disease specialist shares how to protect yourself and your community through informed decision-making
Reviewed by: Rama Thyagarajan, MD
Written by: Lauren Schneider
Update: This piece was edited on August 8, 2023, to reflect more recent information from the City of Austin regarding case counts and vaccine availability.
On May 26, 2023, the City of Austin announced that Austin Public Health had detected a new case of mpox (formerly known as monkeypox) in Travis County. The statement marked the first new case of mpox in the county since February.
“I think the availability of the vaccine, combined with behavior modification, helped us control the spread of the mpox virus in our area over the past year,” says board-certified infectious disease specialist Rama Thyagarajan, MD, in UT Health Austin’s Infectious Disease Clinic.
How many mpox cases are there in Travis County?
As of August 4, 2023, there are 284 confirmed cases of the virus in Travis County. The latest case counts can be found on the City of Austin website.
How is mpox transmitted?
Kristin Mondy, MD, an associate professor and the Chief of the Division of Infectious Disease in the Dell Medical School Department of Internal Medicine, describes common routes of mpox transmission in a 2022 joint town hall between the Dell Medical School and the Travis County Medical Society.
Contact with the following can result in a mpox infection:
- Respiratory droplets
- Skin lesions
- Bodily fluids
- Contaminated objects or surfaces
The mpox virus can enter the body in the following ways:
- The respiratory tract
- Mucous membranes (such as those in the mouth and genitals)
- Close skin contact with infected rash or body fluids
What are symptoms associated with mpox?
The primary symptom associated with mpox is a rash that may resemble pimples or blisters. “These lesions are rounded and can vary in form. Sometimes they have a white spot and sometimes they have a dimple in the center,” notes Dr. Thyagarajan.
Additional symptoms of mpox may include:
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
Mpox symptoms typically last 2-4 weeks.
What should I do if I exhibit mpox symptoms?
The CDC recommends that individuals with symptoms of mpox contact their primary care provider, who will connect them to local testing and treatment initiatives. Austin residents without a primary care provider can call Austin Public Health’s Information Line at 1-512-972-5560. If an individual is at risk for serious Mpox infection, seeking urgent medical care is important so treatment can be started immediately.
What should I do if I test positive for mpox?
<br>People who have tested positive for mpox should avoid the following:
- Close physical (skin-to-skin) interaction with another person, whether the contact is sexual or platonic in nature
- Sharing common spaces (e.g., bedrooms, bathrooms) with others
- Sharing personal items (e.g., bedsheets, razors, furniture) with others
Upon testing positive, people should also contact anyone they have recently been in such close contact with. “People who test positive for mpox should be especially careful around people who could be at high risk, such as young children, pregnant people, people with existing skin conditions, and immunocompromised individuals, including those with HIV or those taking immunosuppressive drugs, such as chemotherapy treatment for cancer,” warns Dr. Thyagarajan.
Who can get the mpox vaccine?
<br>The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccination against mpox for the following groups:
- Individuals known to have had close contact with a person infected with the mpox virus
- Individuals with a sex partner in the past two weeks who was diagnosed with mpox
- Men or individuals of another gender who have had sex with men who had multiple sexual partners or a new diagnosis of a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, or HIVin the past 6 months
- Individuals who have had sex at a commercial venue or club associated with sexual activity, in a region with widespread mpox transmission, or in exchange for money in the past 6 months
- Individuals with a sex partner who has experienced any of the above scenarios
- Individuals who expect to experience one of the above scenarios
- Immunocompromised individuals who may become exposed to mpox
- Individuals who may be exposed to mpox in a clinical or laboratory setting
Where can I get the mpox vaccine in Austin?
The CDC website offers a Mpox Vaccine Locator widget to find a site near you.
Several community organizations offer the mpox vaccine in partnership with Austin Public Health, such as:
- Austin Public Health: 1-512-972-5520
- CommUnity Care: 1-512-978-9015
- Kind Clinic: 1-833-937-5463
- Vivent Health: 1-512-458-2437
How many doses of the mpox vaccine do I need?
JYNNEOS, a vaccine against mpox and smallpox, is delivered in two doses. The CDC recommends a four-week interval between the first and second dose.
There is currently no evidence to support the use of a booster dose for individuals who received a vaccine last year. “We currently do not have data about how long the vaccine is effective,” says Dr. Thyagarajan, adding that a person vaccinated against mpox may still contract the virus, though they are less likely to become seriously ill. “Vaccination alone is not enough to stop the spread of mpox, people should avoid high-risk behaviors associated with the virus.”
How can I prevent the spread of mpox?
Dr. Thyagarajan says that people should avoid close physical contact of any sort with anyone with any skin lesion that looks like pimples, even if only one or two lesions are present, and individuals who are being tested for mpox.
Mpox can be passed through close personal contact, including sexual activity, and most cases have been acquired through sexual contact. For this reason, protective measures against STIs, such as condoms, are ineffective against mpox, as the disease can still be passed through many other forms of skin-to-skin contact.
People who believe they have been in close contact with somebody with mpox should contact their primary care provider. Individuals in Travis County can call Austin Public Health’s Information Line at 1-512-972-5560 for more information about mpox.