Monkeypox cases in Worcester now up to 7; city launches virus webpage

Worcester has launched a webpage with information about monkeypox.
Worcester has launched a webpage with information about monkeypox.

WORCESTER — There were seven confirmed cases of monkeypox in Worcester, and 202 total cases in Massachusetts, as of Monday afternoon.

No one has died from monkeypox in Massachusetts.

Dr. Matilde Castiel, Worcester's commissioner of health and human service, confirmed the increase in the city, from two cases reported at the beginning of August, and said she has been working with Acting City Manager Eric Batista on strategies to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

"Our goal is to be able to mitigate this, to really stop the spread of this disease, and knowing we have vaccines for it, and we have medications for it," Castiel said. "Not a deadly disease, but we want to make sure that we get that information out."

The city is continuing efforts to trace who has been in contact with the seven people with confirmed cases, she said.


In addition to the city's recently launched web page that contains more information about the virus, Castiel said she and Batista have been working on getting information out to the community about how to look for signs of the virus, how it spreads, and information about the vaccine.

"We've been having some town halls with some of the congregate living spaces ... and group homes ... home health aides who may go into housing and what to look for," Castiel said. "Also to figure out how we have that communication with schools, especially when they're returning back, both the regular schools and colleges, to be able to get this information out."

She said there is a town hall meeting scheduled with hospitals and health centers to discuss this information as well.

Residents should be aware of signs of the virus, she said, which can include "a rash that looks like a red papule in the beginning and then turns into a blister and ... in the blister fluid is where really the virus sets, and that is what people can contract."

These symptoms are often preceded by one to four days with flulike illness.

The virus can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, touching objects or surfaces that have been used by someone with the virus, prolonged contact with bodily fluids, and sharing objects like bedspread or clothing, the city's webpage said.

The page also said people are able to spread the virus to others from "the time symptoms start until the rash had fully healed and fresh layer of skin has formed."

Public health emergency

Not long after the first two cases of monkeypox in Worcester were reported early this month, the Biden administration declared it a public health emergency.

A press release published by the city said the virus "has shown to be far less contagious than other viruses, such as COVID-19," but that officials are urging "residents to take its risk seriously."

The city recommended that residents follow CDC guidelines for protecting themselves from the virus, including:

• Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.

• Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom

Monkeypox vaccines are available at AIDS Project Worcester, but only to those who are at major risk of exposure, or to anyone who has been in contact with someone who has a confirmed case of the virus.

Unlike the COVID-19 vaccine, which requires one vial per dose and is injected directly into a person's muscles, the monkeypox vaccine can be injected under the skin, and a single vial can cover five individuals and provide ample protection, Castiel said.

"What they [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] have found out is actually giving a smaller amount under the skin actually can last for quite some time," she said. "Like a TB shot, we stick it under the skin."

Castiel reiterated that it is important for people to understand that anyone is capable of contracting the virus, not just LGBT men or men who have sex with other men.

"Anybody who's living in a group home, any type of congregate living, people who are having multiple sexual partners, who are having intimate physical contact with people, also people who are immunosuppressed," she said. "They need to know and understand about monkeypox and how to look for it and how to get treated for it."

This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Monkeypox in Worcester: Confirmed cases reach 7, city has website