BEAUMONT, Texas — With the City of Beaumont announcing the first case of monkeypox in the city, health officials are warning community members that while cause for concern low, there is still a concern.
Over the weekend, health officials confirmed that a Beaumont resident has monkeypox. The case was reported Monday afternoon.
Kenneth Coleman is the Beaumont Public Health director. He said there are steps health officials are taking to keep the community safe and informed concerning the virus.
"We follow up," Coleman said. "We contact people who are close contacts based on the information we receive from an investigation."
With the way cases are spreading cross the U.S. and in parts of Texas, Coleman believes it was inevitable that monkeypox would make its way to Beaumont.
"Well, I'm not surprised that it's here, Coleman said.
Coleman believes public health risk is low right now, but encourages people to be on the lookout anyway. Evidence shows children younger than eight, people living with HIV, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding may develop more serious illness.
"Right now, based on what we know about our current cases, I wouldn't say it's necessarily a huge concern, but it is still a concern," Coleman said. "We just want the public to know that currently right now, the general public is not at great risk. We just need people to be mindful of their contacts."
Coleman said the disease primarily spreads through close skin contact.
"It's not what you would consider a typical sexually transmitted infection, so we have to be mindful of coming in contact with other people's skin," Coleman said.
Monkeypox spreads in a way similar to COVID making the preventions methods similar as well, according to Coleman. Community members are encouraged to mask up, wash their hands, and clean surfaces.
"It's airborne," Coleman said. "So, we have to be careful about being within six feet of someone for at least three hours."
Cases are primarily being reported in men who have intimate contact with other men. Johnathan Gooch is a part of an LGBTQ advocacy group called Equality Texas. Gooch said while that is a concern, so is the stigma it presents
"One it further stigmatizes our community unnecessarily,” Gooch said. “But the other side is that it means people who aren't in the LGBTQ community aren't prepared to protect themselves."
Coleman said vaccines are being dispersed to places with a high number of cases. The Beaumont Public Health Department has ordered vaccines, but officials "have no idea" of when the city will get them due to one reason.
"The vaccine is in very limited supply," Coleman said.
Health officials said mostly men are testing positive for the virus, but encourage everyone to be careful.
"Currently what we are seeing, is it's primarily in the group of men who are having sex with other men," Coleman said. "That's the primary group right now, but anybody can get it."
Health officials in Port Arthur have also confirmed that Port Arthur Health has ordered vaccines. They also are not sure when they will come in.
If a Southeast Texas or someone they know thinks they may have been exposed, Coleman encourages them to reach out to their primary care doctor.