Jessica Mathews /

Following the first probable case of Monkeypox being identified in Livingston County, a local medical expert and infectious disease physician says there is no cause for any panic.

The Livingston County Health Department reported the first probable case is currently isolating and does not pose a risk to the public. The individual was said to have recently traveled out of state before developing symptoms. Case investigators are currently working to identify and monitor any close contacts for symptoms.

No additional local cases have been identified at this time. Per data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, there were 55 cases reported as of Tuesday across the state. Nationally, there were 6,326 cases being reported.

Dr. Varsha Moudgal is the associate chief medical officer at Trinity Health St. Joseph Mercy Livingston and specializes in infectious diseases. She was also one of the local leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moudgal says Monkeypox is a viral infection and emphasized that it is not as transmissible as COVID. Currently, she says a lot of the virus has been sexually transmitted but not all as it transmits from prolonged contact with skin mucus membranes and secretions. Moudgal says there is some droplet transmission that can occur but not quite as much as COVID and someone would really have to be within 6-feet of someone without using a mask for three hours before anyone would be at significant risk of contracting it from droplets.

She says when someone is exposed through contact, there is an incubation period of 1 to 2 weeks. During that, Moudgal says no one who is A-symptomatic is capable of transmitting the disease to anyone.

For those who do contract Monkeypox, the first symptoms are typically fever, headaches, and feeling unwell. However; Moudgal said in this day and age, if someone has those symptoms, they are more likely to have COVID and the BA.5 variant than Monkeypox.

In any event, if someone has symptoms of either, Moudgal says they ask that people be good stewards of the community and make sure they’re not exposing others.

If people are symptomatic, Moudgal says they need to take precautions that include wearing a mask and not being in the company of others. She says typically within 24-48 hours after a fever begins, in the case of Monkeypox, the rash will start. If that happens, Moudgal says the individual should contact their healthcare provider to guide them through next steps.

Moudgal noted that Monkeypox is not nearly as communicable as COIVD. During the first few days, she says symptoms can be similar to COVID.

When it comes to testing and treatment, Moudgal says Trinity Health Livingston is working in lockstep with the Livingston County Health Department. Both recommend that if anyone feels they’ve been exposed, the best thing to do is contact the Health Department - which can work through actual risk factors. If they feel someone has genuinely been exposed, they’ll explain the next steps and post-exposure vaccine.

Moudgal says they can plug people into one of seven vaccine hubs across Michigan, with the closest locally being in Washtenaw and Oakland Counties, and arrange for someone to get the vaccine.
If someone is symptomatic and concerned they do have Monkeypox, Moudgal says they should contact their healthcare provider or the Health Department for guidance and help to arrange for testing as needed.

As for prevention, Moudgal recommends standard things like wearing a simple surgical mask when in close contact with a group of people, proper hand hygiene, and overall caution.

Above all, she says there is absolutely no need for any community panic because Monkeypox is not like COVID and is not something someone could contract from visiting a grocery store. Moudgal says taking common-sense precautions should be adequate and there are treatments available.

The full interview with Moudgal can be heard on WHMI’s Viewpoint program, this Sunday morning at 8:30.