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COVID cases are down, monkeypox is up and flu season is on the horizon

By Kristen Hackbarth

Officials with the Washoe County Health District on Wednesday said COVID-19 cases are down but monkeypox cases have nearly tripled over the past two weeks. A potentially severe flu season is also on the horizon. 

Washoe County’s community risk level for COVID-19 has dropped to the low range based on criteria set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“What we’re seeing is pretty good right now,” said District Health Officer Kevin Dick. 

The data on the decline of COVID cases has been significant, with the seven-day average of cases at just over 61 per 100,000. That’s a drop from mid-July when there were about 234 cases per 100,000. 

Hospitalizations are down as well, with just 32 people with confirmed or suspected cases getting care.

Dick said it’s still important for people to get vaccinated and to maintain their booster protection against COVID-19. He said now’s the time to get a flu vaccination as well.

“What we’ve seen with data out of Australia is a surge of flu cases,” Dick said. “Australia has had its worst flu season in five years.” 

He said the United States tracks flu data in Australia where the flu season comes earlier in the year because it’s in the southern hemisphere.

“What happens down in Australia is often a real good indicator of what’s going to happen here,” he said.

Monkeypox cases increasing

WCHD epidemiologist Nancy Diao provided an update on monkeypox cases in the region. She said the health district has confirmed 11 cases, up from four reported two weeks ago. 

None of the cases have required hospitalization.

“Our number has increased quite significantly, but we’re basing this off a very small sample size… If we look nationally at the CDC’s numbers, what we’re seeing right now, especially in recent days, there seems to be a plateauing of cases,” Diao said.

She said transmission of the virus may be plateauing because of more education in the community and action in combating spread of the virus.

Diao said the health district’s efforts with regards to the monkeypox virus are geared toward vaccination, disease investigation and treatment.

Both she and Dick stressed that anyone can get monkeypox and everyone in the community should all be working together to keep the virus at bay.

“We do want to continue to encourage community members, particularly those who are at-risk population or have engaged in possible exposure activities, to be aware of symptoms” and to get medical help and testing if symptoms appear.

Symptoms can include a rash that looks like blisters or pimples that can appear on the face, hands, feet and other parts of the body, including the genitals. Flu-like symptoms can also occur.

The virus is transmitted through close contact, which can include physical contact by touching the rash or through sexual contact. It is not a sexually transmitted disease.

Diao also said people who are part of the current at-risk population, largely men who have sex with men, should be aware of the symptoms of monkeypox. 

She also suggested temporarily changing some behaviors, including reducing the number of sexual partners, reconsidering having sex with new partners and exchanging contact information with new sexual partners in case follow up is needed. 

“Avoid close contact, as always. That’s the main thing because that’s how the disease transmits,” Diao said. “This applies to everyone. If you yourself are having symptoms do not have close contact with other people and seek a medical provider right away.”

More information on monkeypox is available at washoecounty.gov/monkeypox. The WCHD website also includes information about COVID-19 and the flu.

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