Wisconsin monkeypox survivor reflects on 2003 outbreak

Wisconsin monkeypox survivor reflects on 2003 outbreak

The World Health Organization is meeting daily to determine its next steps for the containment of monkeypox.So far, cases have been confirmed in the United Kingdom, Portugal, Sweden, Italy and the United States. Cases in Canada and Spain are also being investigated. Wisconsin dealt with its own outbreak of the disease nearly 20 years ago. Cases spread after prairie dogs being sold in Wisconsin were found to be infected. WISN 12 caught up with one man Friday who survived the outbreak in 2003.The re-emergence of monkeypox in the U.S. brings back some painful memories for Dr. Kurt Zaeske. He survived the 2003 monkeypox outbreak.The Lake Geneva man was a veterinarian in 2003 and came in contact with a prairie dog carrying the virus.”Within about 48 hours of my handling that specimen I became ill,” he said Friday.He developed chickenpox, or pox-like lesions, nausea, dizziness and a high fever. Zaeske spoke with WISN 12 in 2003 after being quarantined for two weeks.”I started developing a blister on my thumb that didn’t look right, didn’t act right,” he said at the time.Health officials in 2003 cautioned an alarmed public as more cases turned up across Wisconsin.Dr. Seth Foldy was the Milwaukee Health Commissioner back then.”Direct contact with the skin lesion of monkeypox can transmit the virus,” he said in 2003.There were 71 monkeypox cases reported in the U.S. in 2003. Of those, 39, were diagnosed in Wisconsin. There has not been a single Wisconsin case reported in the 19 years since but health officials said they’re ready if monkeypox were to return.”This is not something that’s completely unfamiliar to us. There is a process within the state of Wisconsin and in the Milwaukee Health Department with how you manage the communicable disease, of which monkeypox is one, and we’re prepared to manage it,” current Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said Friday.Zaeske believes there would be less worry today about an outbreak than he recalls there was 19 years ago.”We did not know what was going to happen (then),” he said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said one case of monkeypox has been confirmed in Massachusetts.Six more cases are being investigated across the country. Two cases were diagnosed in 2021.The CDC determined the monkeypox virus was likely introduced into the United States in 2003 by a distributor where prairie dogs and Gambian giant rats were housed together in Illinois. “A search of imported animal records revealed that Gambian giant rats were shipped from Ghana in April to a wildlife importer in Texas and subsequently were sold to the Illinois distributor,” a CDC report said. “The shipment contained approximately 800 small mammals of nine different species that might have been the actual source of introduction of monkeypox.”

The World Health Organization is meeting daily to determine its next steps for the containment of monkeypox.

So far, cases have been confirmed in the United Kingdom, Portugal, Sweden, Italy and the United States.

Cases in Canada and Spain are also being investigated.

Wisconsin dealt with its own outbreak of the disease nearly 20 years ago.

Cases spread after prairie dogs being sold in Wisconsin were found to be infected.

WISN 12 caught up with one man Friday who survived the outbreak in 2003.

The re-emergence of monkeypox in the U.S. brings back some painful memories for Dr. Kurt Zaeske.

He survived the 2003 monkeypox outbreak.

The Lake Geneva man was a veterinarian in 2003 and came in contact with a prairie dog carrying the virus.

“Within about 48 hours of my handling that specimen I became ill,” he said Friday.

He developed chickenpox, or pox-like lesions, nausea, dizziness and a high fever.

Zaeske spoke with WISN 12 in 2003 after being quarantined for two weeks.

“I started developing a blister on my thumb that didn’t look right, didn’t act right,” he said at the time.

Health officials in 2003 cautioned an alarmed public as more cases turned up across Wisconsin.

Dr. Seth Foldy was the Milwaukee Health Commissioner back then.

“Direct contact with the skin lesion of monkeypox can transmit the virus,” he said in 2003.

There were 71 monkeypox cases reported in the U.S. in 2003.

Of those, 39, were diagnosed in Wisconsin.

There has not been a single Wisconsin case reported in the 19 years since but health officials said they’re ready if monkeypox were to return.

“This is not something that’s completely unfamiliar to us. There is a process within the state of Wisconsin and in the Milwaukee Health Department with how you manage the communicable disease, of which monkeypox is one, and we’re prepared to manage it,” current Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said Friday.

Zaeske believes there would be less worry today about an outbreak than he recalls there was 19 years ago.

“We did not know what was going to happen (then),” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said one case of monkeypox has been confirmed in Massachusetts.

Six more cases are being investigated across the country. Two cases were diagnosed in 2021.

The CDC determined the monkeypox virus was likely introduced into the United States in 2003 by a distributor where prairie dogs and Gambian giant rats were housed together in Illinois.

“A search of imported animal records revealed that Gambian giant rats were shipped from Ghana in April to a wildlife importer in Texas and subsequently were sold to the Illinois distributor,” a CDC report said. “The shipment contained approximately 800 small mammals of nine different species that might have been the actual source of introduction of monkeypox.”

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