Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Butler's monkeypox hot line is ringing

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - A Butler County Health Department hot line established for monkeypox-related concerns fielded 50 calls over the weekend, an official said Monday.Health officials set up the hot line, 863-1770, after authorities learned a pet wallaby may have been exposed to the virus before it visited Bloomfield Elementary School on May 27.

Monkeypox, an African virus, is similar to smallpox but milder.

None of the hot line calls led officials to declare additional suspected cases of monkeypox. The 12-to-21-day incubation period for the disease has passed, so concerns about possible transmission have diminished, health department director Patricia Burg said.

Still, people who may have had contact with the animal are being asked to watch for signs of the disease, including swollen lymph nodes, general exhaustion, fever and a telltale rash.

Blood tests are being done on a 20-year-old Trenton-area woman and two wallabies - kangaroo-like animals - after health officials learned at least one wallaby had been purchased from an Illinois exotic animal supplier whose prairie dogs were traced to the first U.S. outbreak of the African disease this month.

As of Friday, 81 cases were under investigation in four states: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. (See www.cdc.gov/ncidod/monkeypox.)

The Butler County hot line is being manned from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. However, because weekend rains caused flooding in Butler County, calls about flooding also are coming into that number, Burg said.


E-mail jmorse@enquirer.com

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