SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The last few years have hit the world hard, first with COVID-19, then with monkeypox. While COVID-19 is still often discussed, monkeypox has lost much of the attention it originally garnered.

So, what happened? 

Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms similar to smallpox, though less severe. Like smallpox, monkeypox is transmitted through close contact. However, monkeypox is primarily skin-on-skin contact, often hitting the gay men’s community the hardest. 

“When I first heard about [monkeypox], I was scared. After going through the pandemic, I was afraid we were about to have another one,” Austin Slade Perry, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, said. 

According to the WHO, monkeypox was first identified in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a 9-month-old boy in a region where smallpox had been eliminated in 1968. Since then, most monkeypox cases have been found in rural rainforest regions of the Congo Basin. More recently, there has been a slight rise in cases outside of Africa with multiple cases of monkeypox diagnosed in May 2022.  

Perry didn’t take any chances. He got the vaccine during an early vaccine campaign. A few weeks later, he got his second shot.

“[The vaccine campaign] was earlier than almost all other U.S. cities with more vaccines per capita for our high-risk demographic,” Michael Sanders, LGBTQ+ Activist, said. 

Sanders worked with the Salt Lake County Health Department to launch the campaign, receiving an award from the Health Department for this initiative from the County Mayor and the Director of the Department of Health for “the most successful campaign of any type in the history of the Health Department.” 

“The response was an overwhelming success, and we believe we stopped the virus dead in its tracks before it had a chance to take hold and spread in both the gay men’s community as well as jump over to any other demographic. This is why you don’t hear much about the virus. We beat it!” Sanders said. 

Since writing this article, according to the Utah Department of Health, as of May 2022, 190 confirmed and probable cases of monkeypox have been reported in Utah.

  • Central Utah: 1
  • Davis County: 16
  • Salt Lake County: 136
  • Summit County: 2
  • Tooele County: 2
  • Tri-County: 1
  • Utah County: 22
  • Weber/Morgan: 10

Total number of people who have received a vaccine: 4,348

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox symptoms usually start within three weeks of exposure to the virus. Symptoms include: 

  • The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
  • The rash can initially look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.

Other symptoms of monkeypox can include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Exhaustion
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Headache
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)

The CDC urges individuals to speak with their healthcare provider if they feel they’re at risk for the virus or may have become infected. 

“For those of you who are able to get vaccinated but haven’t done it yet, I strongly encourage you to do so,” Perry said.