WILTON MANORS, Fla. – Brian Thomas said he tested positive for monkeypox after he traveled from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale to attend Pride events in June.
Thomas, 32, said he is open about being HIV-positive. He was already using TikTok to raise HIV awareness, so he quickly shifted his focus to monkeypox.
Thomas, of Baltimore, works as a traveling nurse, so when the federal government declared a public health emergency Thursday, he said it was about time.
“I am angry and relieved. Like, I am angry that it took this long and this many people in my community before any kind of attention was given,” Thomas said adding, “I really think that we could have acted months ago.”
Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert with Florida International University, agrees. The declaration means more resources for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“This is a call that ideally would have been made sooner because by making that declaration, what happens is you release funding and you release resources to help contain this outbreak,” Marty said.
According to The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health officials had confirmed 7,102 cases in the country and 577 in Florida as of Thursday. There were at least 237 in Broward and 135 in Miami-Dade.
Watch the 3:30 p.m. report
The contagious virus spreads through skin-to-skin contact, exposure to large respiratory droplets, and by sharing contaminated materials such as clothing or bedding. The cases in the U.S. include children.
“It has nothing to do with ‘prolonged’ [contact] like people keep saying. It has to do with breaking the skin and getting in or having broken skin and touching one of those lesions because they are chock-full of the virus,” Marty said.
Those infected may experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, body aches, and fatigue. The disease may progress to swelling of the lymph nodes and skin lesions.
“It feels like somebody struck like a match and set fire to my skin,” Jonathan Araujo, of Miami, said in July.
It can take between five to 21 days to show symptoms after an infection, and the illness could last two to four weeks, according to the Florida Department of Health.
There is a high demand for the two-shot Jynneos vaccine. Each dose is provided 28 days apart. But Marty said its efficacy is uncertain since the last study done in the 1980s showed 85% efficacy.
For more information about making an appointment to get a vaccine in Broward County, visit this page.