As monkeypox rises, Cooper Hospital opens vaccine center

New Jersey has had at least 214 reported cases of monkeypox spanning 13 counties, state Department of Health officials said last Friday.

The federal government declared the monkeypox outbreak a national public health emergency Thursday after more than 7,100 Americans reported contracting the virus. The designation will allow the Biden administration to use federal money and other resources to combat the virus, which causes pimple-like bumps, fever, fatigue and other symptoms in those who are infected.

Infections have been on the rise in New Jersey, from 45 total cases two weeks ago to 214 total cases as of Friday. That’s a 375% increase.

Cases have been diagnosed in 13 counties: Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Somerset and Union counties.

Hudson County reported the most cases with 67 as of Friday, followed by Essex County with 45 cases and Bergen County with 24 cases, state officials said.

Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Salem, Sussex and Warren counties have not reported a positive case, health department data shows.

In counties with less than five cases, the state has not released the specific number of cases to protect patient privacy, officials said.

Cases have also increased dramatically across the country. In the two-week period from July 20 through Wednesday, reported cases in the U.S. nearly tripled, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New Jersey residents should remain cautious, but take the declaration of the national public health emergency as a good sign, said Stephanie Silvera, an epidemiologist and professor at Montclair State University.

Public health emergencies allow the government to more easily allocate resources to respond to outbreaks, which is positive, Silvera said. It could also help the public take things more seriously, she said.

“It also hopefully signals to people who may have thought that this is a disease for other people in other places, that they can be affected by it,” Silvera said.

Residents should continue to practice common disease-prevention tactics, including washing your hands and not going out if you feel sick. While not an airborne virus, monkeypox can be spread through droplets and saliva, so wearing a mask if you think you might have been exposed to the virus is a good idea, Silvera said.

Those in high-risk groups should get the monkeypox vaccination, the health department says. High-risk groups include men who have sex with men and anyone who had contact with someone who tested positive or attended an event where there was a known monkeypox case.

But state officials acknowledge it has been tough for some residents to track down a vaccine in New Jersey.

“Vaccine availability has been limited,” Nancy Kearney, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health, said in a statement. “Demand is high and appointments are being filled quickly.”

As of Monday, the state had received about 5,500 doses, she said. An additional 14,520 doses are expected in the coming weeks, including a shipment of 5,900 which should be delivered this week, she said.

The only South Jersey monkeypox vaccination site is at Cooper University Hospital, 300 Broadway (Camden), at the intersection of Broadway and MLK Boulevard. Entrance off of MLK Boulevard. Follow the signs; do not drive into the parking garage. Appointment only: Call 856-968-7100, Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.