ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)– From being on the frontlines of COVID, to now helping those with monkeypox, county health departments have been especially busy over the past few years.
“They are taking a look at the numbers, they are helping those who have symptoms doing contact tracing, case investigation, they are working with community providers to make sure communities have the education they need to know how to prevent monkeypox transmission, and to protect themselves in the future,” stated Sarah Ravenhall, Executive Director of the New York State Association of County Health Officials.
Blisters, rash, and flu like symptoms are some of the characteristics of monkeypox which a disease that can spread by skin to skin contact.
“Luckily there is not a high risk of death or hospitalization associated with monkeypox, but in this current outbreak what we are seeing is a large population of LGBTQ+ individuals being impacted, although anyone can be at risk for transmission of monkeypox.”
On Friday, Governor Kathy Hochul declared a state disaster emergency after more than one in four cases of monkeypox in the country are in New York State–primarily in New York City.
“By declaring this, all vaccinations of monkeypox in cases must now be told to the department of health. That was not the case before,” explained Governor Kathy Hochul. “Why is that important? Because I’m making the case to the federal government that we need more doses— more than we have been previously allocated. I can demonstrate there is high demand and need.”
This is something the Sarah Ravenhall of the New York State Association of County Health Officials said is a good thing, because the declaration also allows more people to give the vaccine.
“Midwives, pharmacists are now able to vaccinate against monkeypox, just to name a few of these professions,” said Ravenhall.
This is important to health departments that are facing funding and staffing issues.
“We are also seeing challenges getting qualified public health workers into the field. Particularly in rural communities. We need qualified candidates working at local health departments and we need the funding to hire these really important professionals and public servants that will do the work.”
The association is calling on the federal government to include monkeypox in the PREP Act to help protect local health departments from liability and to broaden the scope of vaccinators on the federal level.