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Hennepin County clinic raising awareness on monkeypox as cases rise in Minnesota

Hennepin County's Red Door Clinic has diagnosed the majority of monkeypox cases in Minnesota, including the first reported case on June 24.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — Monkeypox is now a public health emergency in the United States. The Biden administration made the announcement Thursday afternoon. 

Meanwhile in Minnesota, there have been 44 confirmed cases of monkeypox as of Aug. 4, according to the state's Department of Health. That's 10 more cases since yesterday. 

"We want to make sure that people know that we're here for them and they don't need to suffer... we have treatments; we have things to help manage the symptoms," said Bridget Daniels, a Red Door nurse practitioner. 

Hennepin County's Red Door — a sexual health clinic in Minneapolis — has diagnosed a majority of the monkeypox cases in the state, including the first confirmed case on June 27

Since then, they have been testing people every day. 

So far, most of the cases have been mild with no hospitalizations. A majority of the cases they have treated were spread through sexual contact. 

"We're seeing it spread with that close, intimate, skin-to-skin contact. Or people who live together, share towels, bedding, beverages... have a lot of prolonged contact. So I'm not worried about your general risks from going to the grocery store, being in the community," Daniels said. 

Monkeypox symptoms include: fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhausting and respiratory symptoms. But the most common symptom Red Door staff is seeing are skin lesions. 

"They often start flat and then become raised up. Almost like little Cheerios, little domed-up Cheerios with indented or darkened centers would be the most kind of common and unique appearance that I'm seeing with this that doesn't look like other things I usually diagnose in patients," Daniels explained. 

Nurse practitioner Pamela Layton said in patients they've treated, these lesions are often not like the worst-case scenario photos people may have seen where someone is covered head to toe in lesions. 

While skin lesions can be anywhere on the body, they're most commonly being seen on or around the genitals. 

"It's important to know that anyone can get monkeypox. But it just so happens that it's circulating right now among men who are sexual with men," said Pamela Layton, a nurse practitioner at Red Door. "Red Door is an ally to that community and we want to support and reassure our patients today." 

Daniels added, "We're really worried about the stigma that some of our patients are seeing or experiencing. We want to be clear, monkeypox doesn't care how you identify or who you have sex with."

There is currently a limited supply of monkeypox vaccine. The clinic is focused on providing it to those at a higher risk, including people who have had a known exposure. Treatment is usually focused on pain management. One option is an anti-viral medication. 

People who think they may have symptoms, should contact their provider or they can call or come in to the clinic. Daniels recommends those with lesions, to cover them, isolate, wear a mask and get seen for a possible diagnosis. 

Red Door will not turn away people who cannot pay. 

There is the concern of it becoming endemic with Daniels saying, "As it starts spreading and if it spreads more, that becomes more challenging. We haven't seen this and we don't want to have to keep seeing this. We don't want this be one more thing on people's worry list." 

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