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Should we be concerned about monkeypox at ACL?

People raise their hands in a crowd at Austin City Limits Music Festival. Some wear face masks.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
Thousands of people descend on Zilker Park each year for the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Health officials ask people to take precautions to limit the spread of diseases.

Austin City Limits Music Festival kicks off this weekend, and people are excited to dance, drink and watch their favorite artists perform. But with many attendees traveling from out of town and possible skin-to-skin contact in the crowds, some might be wondering if the festival will worsen the spread of monkeypox.

As of Sept. 30, Travis County has had 186 confirmed cases. Texas has reported the fourth highest number of monkeypox cases in the U.S. since the outbreak began earlier this year. Nationally, though, cases have been on the decline since late August.

Dr. Michael Stefanowiczs, associate director of sexual health programs at CommUnityCare Health Centers and a UT Dell Medical School assistant professor, said health care professionals haven’t seen any outbreaks of monkeypox associated with large public gatherings, but he can understand why people may feel anxious.

Large gatherings, or “superspreader” events, worsened and prolonged the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Stefanowiczs said, in the U.S., monkeypox is mostly spreading through sexual contact.

“For ACL and other large-scale events, it is not no-risk, but it is categorically low-risk,” Stefanowiczs said.

Stefanowiczs said ACL attendees are more likely to contract COVID-19 at this year’s festival than monkeypox. And the good news is more than 82% of people in Travis County have received at least one coronavirus vaccine.

“We have the tools that we need to mitigate and reduce risk, and those tools include knowledge,” he said.

Monkeypox is spread through close contact with an infected person, or by touching clothing or linens that were in contact with the infected person’s rash or body fluids, according to Austin Public Health. Symptoms include high fever, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, headaches, chills and a pimple or blister-like rash.

APH recommends limiting skin-to-skin contact with strangers and avoiding direct contact with monkeypox rashes and scabs and body fluids from a person with monkeypox.

Stefanowiczs urges people to be proactive if they experience any symptoms and to isolate at home as soon as possible to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus.

“The sooner you isolate, the lower the risk of exposing others,” he said. “And that’s true whether your symptoms are concerning monkeypox, COVID-19 or the flu.”

Stefanowiczs said these are all vaccine-preventable illnesses and encourages all those who are eligible to get their COVID-19 vaccines and boosters as well as the monkeypox JYNNEOS vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are available at local doctor's offices, pharmacies and clinics. You can find a vaccine provider near you at Vaccines.gov.

Monkeypox vaccines are available to those who are at high risk of developing infection. You can check your eligibility for a vaccine and schedule an appointment here.

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