Treatment for monkeypox is not readily available

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Local health care providers are hoping that treatment for the monkeypox virus will become more readily available to their patients.

On Wednesday, the Allegheny County Health Department confirmed the county’s 30th case of monkeypox. According to the CDC, there are 170 cases in Pennsylvania.

Registered nurse Donald Nardelli is seeing more patients at the Central Outreach Wellness Center on Pittsburgh’s North Shore who are seeking to be evaluated for the virus. He said the antiviral drug, TPOXX, had been successful in treating some patients.

“However, the supply of these products is limited, so we need to determine which patients are prioritized, and patients who have severe symptoms, perhaps lesions around the eyes or genitals, are more prone to complications,” Nardelli said.

Nardelli said when the center runs out, it can take several days to store the medicine. The FDA has approved the drug for smallpox.

Central Outreach has the drugs it uses in-house for severe cases. Before the center had it in a stock. Nardelli said it recently took six days to get the drug for a patient.

“We are stable with what we have, but there will come a time when some of the patients that we would normally start right away might have to wait two or three days until we can get a full supply,” Nardelli said.

Over the past three to four weeks or so, Nardelli has assessed 52 patients and tested 45 swabs, 23 tests were positive and 12 tests are pending. The vaccine is available at all central outreach centres.

“I don’t know what today will bring. Yesterday I assessed 11 patients, and we had four under treatment yesterday. I could assess 20 today and 19 want to take medication and if I don’t I don’t have any in reserve, so I’m limited,” he said.

Nardelli said it was also difficult to get the vaccine because people have to meet specific criteria for close contact and availability is limited.

The Allegheny County Health Department said it is working with state and federal partners and developing a plan to expand eligibility and clinic sites.

“I would like to have 10 times more vaccines than us. More vaccines means more people vaccinated so we can move up the categories to vaccinate people who have not been exposed but who are in high risk situations. It’s a way for us to be preventative against this outbreak,” Nardelli said.

The Allegheny County Health Department received 2,800 doses of the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine. The JYNNEOS vaccine is offered through CDHA’s community partners (Central Outreach Wellness Center, Allies for Health + Wellbeing, Metro Community Health Center, and AHN Positive Health Clinic) and the CDHA Immunization Clinic (425 First Avenue, Fourth Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15219).

If a person is eligible, ACHD said to contact one of the vaccine providers or the ACHD Immunization Clinic at 412-578-8062.

According to CDHA Public Health Nurse Supervisor Renee Miller:

“Originally, the CDC and PA DOH recommended that the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine be a two-dose series. However, according to Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines, effective today, patients should only receive a second dose of monkeypox vaccine if they have a disease that may increase their risk of serious illness if they are infected with monkeypox virus (for example, HIV or other disease that weakens their immune system) or who have a history of atopic dermatitis or eczema are already scheduled for a second dose. However, we advise patients in the future that they will be eligible for a second dose in the future, but this date is not yet known and depends on the quantities of vaccines The United States Department of Health and Human Services recently announced the additional release of more than 700,000 additional doses of the smallpox vaccine monkey.”

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