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Indiana health officials: Monkeypox cases include women and children

An electron micrograph image of monkeypox virus particles.
(National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)
An electron micrograph image of monkeypox virus particles.

Indiana has confirmed monkeypox infections among men, women and children, according to an Indiana Department of Health briefing addressed to health care providers on July 22 and obtained and verified by WFYI.

As of late last week, monkeypox cases had been identified in a handful of Hoosier women, representing 20 percent of the roughly 30 confirmed cases confirmed in Indiana at that point, which stands in contrast with global and national data showing the vast majority of cases in the latest outbreak have been among men.

The presentation by IDOH chief medical officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver also mentioned cases among children but doesn’t specify how many. At the time of publication, IDOH had not responded to requests from WFYI for the latest numbers of monkeypox cases among women or the exact number of pediatric cases.

In an interview with WTIU/WFIU News, Weaver said the majority of cases in Indiana are among men who have sex with men.

“But we have cases in women and even cases in children here in Indiana, and we're starting to see that across the country as well," she said.

This is a development health officials are keeping a close eye on. Until recently, health experts in the U.S. and the World Health Organization have said that the risk to the general public is low and that –– while anyone can get infected –– the spread seems to have been concentrated among men.

WHO experts said that 98 percent of cases globally are among men and 99 percent of those are among men who have sex with men.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, reiterated this point in an interview with NPR.

"We've got to understand the modality of transmission, the manifestations, also the risk for people like children and pregnant women," Fauci told NPR. "There's really a profound risk."

The U.S. has two documented monkeypox cases among children, according to data shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on July 25: a toddler in California and an infant whose family was traveling in Washington, D.C. The agency’s data may lag behind state-level data.

Outside of the briefing addressed to providers, IDOH has not publicly shared details about the pediatric monkeypox infections.

The Marion County Public Health Department had reported its first two monkeypox cases on July 13. The cases have risen to 17 cases as of July 28. It’s not clear if this increase in cases is factored into the latest CDC numbers.

“We must all be vigilant in understanding that, while some individuals are at a higher risk for monkeypox, it can spread to anyone,” said Dr. Virginia A. Caine, director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department, in a press release. “Be aware of the symptoms, and please seek the help of a medical provider if you have any questions.”

The Indiana Department of Health does not currently have a public dashboard listing monkeypox cases. But according to the briefing to health care providers, the department is working on creating a data dashboard that includes locations and demographic information.

According to CDC data, as of July 28, Indiana has 37 confirmed cases of monkeypox. Infections are spread among 12 Indiana counties, according to data presented in the IDOH briefing.

Monkeypox infection numbers are still low in Indiana relative to other states.

Across the U.S., cases are confirmed in 46 states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. The highest number of cases are seen in the following states: 1,228 cases in New York, 799 in California, 385 in Illinois, 332 in Florida. Some states, including Kansas, Kentucky and Missouri, currently report only a handful of cases.

The CDC says monkeypox patients should isolate themselves as long as they experience symptoms. If the patient’s household has children under 8 at home, they should consider isolating away from them, because young children, pregnant women, immunocompromised people and those with a history of atopic dermatitis or eczema are considered high risk.

Mitch Legan, a reporter at WTIU/WFIU News, contributed reporting.

This story comes from a reporting collaboration that includes the Indianapolis Recorder and Side Effects Public Media — a public health news initiative based at WFYI. Contact Farah at Follow on Twitter: @Farah_Yousrym.

Copyright 2022 WFYI Public Media. To see more, visit WFYI Public Media.

Farah Yousry