BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — We’re continuing to follow developing news after the Biden Administration declared the monkeypox outbreak a ‘national public health emergency.’

Local health officials said monkeypox cases in Alabama are low, sitting at around 19 reported. Local leaders are helping the public better understand how this declaration can help to better fight the monkeypox outbreak.

Jefferson County Department of Health Medical Director of Disease Control Dr. Wesley Willeford said cases are going up faster than health experts want them to.

“I think this step is going to help us get closer to getting the resources that we need to really begin to contain this viral infection,” Willeford said. “It also helps to mobilize other resources in the federal government to really help coordinate and respond to this problem with a lot of force and vigor.”

The U.S. is leading all countries in the number of reported cases of monkeypox. UAB infectious diseases Dr. Michael Saag said in three months we’ve seen about half as many cases as we did of AIDS in almost two years.

“I don’t think there’s any reason for the general public to become too alarmed or panicked by this,” Saag said. “The good news is for the general public this is not at all likely to play out unless you happen to have close, physical contact with someone who has active lesions.”

Officials said COVID-19 and monkeypox are very different. COVID moves through the air and monkeypox through close physical contact between two people.

“It’s important that they isolate away from other people for the duration of their illness so that they can basically not pass that on to someone else,” Willeford said. “I think that’s going to be the main thing we can do to control the spread of monkeypox.”

Willeford said monkeypox mainly spreads through touch, even by touching clothing or bed linens of an infected person before those articles are washed. Fevers, chills and most prominent skin puss-filled lesions are the most common symptoms. Saag said those lesions can be small to large and often quite painful.

If you see these on you or had skin-to-skin contact with someone who does, you’re encouraged to contact your healthcare provider immediately.