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DES MOINES, IOWA — Health officials are advising individuals how to stay safe with viruses spreading in the Midwest.

The Polk County Health Department reported on Monday that they had confirmed the first positive case of monkeypox in the county.

The department is not too worried about the spread of the virus among the general public, but they want people to be aware of how it spreads: skin-to-skin contact, bodily fluids and/or sharing bedding and clothing. There is a vaccine that is available for monkeypox.

An infectious disease specialist in the metro echoes the department’s outlook on monkeypox.

“For the average individual out there the chance of them contracting monkeypox is very, very low,” said Dr. Ravi Vemuri, an infectious disease specialist at MercyOne Des Moines. “Now if that individual has intimate contact with potentially multiple people over a span of time, especially people that might have some sort of rash, then the chances of contracting it go up.”

He said that there is a different virus that the public should pay more attention too.

“The average individual on the street, I think, the risk is low and that they should actually be more worried about COVID than monkeypox at this point,” said Dr. Vemuri.

The new strain of COVID 19, BA.5, is now the most dominant strain of COVID 19 in the United States. Polk County has seen a surge of cases in the last couple of weeks, which the health department said is a mix of the new strain, coming off a holiday weekend and people testing for COVID 19 at home.

“The COVID 19 virus is smart, throughout the whole pandemic it is able to make new variants every two weeks and so this is a new lineage of the new omicron variant,” said Nola Aigner Davis, the public information officer for the department.”

As there is a slight increase of cases in the county, those out enjoying the summer weather on Tuesday morning say that COVID 19 is not as prevalent in their minds as it used to be.

“It is not on my mind too much anymore,” said Kathlene Defoe from Beaverdale. “Just keep trying to get out when I can but yeah I would say it is in the back of my mind now.”

Dr. Vemuri said that the current case numbers that are tracked by different health entities are below what the actually case count is. He recommended that individuals reach out to their family and close friend groups to see how their health conditions are; and use that to determine whether or not you should wear a mask in public.