Monterey County’s first probable case of monkeypox has been identified in a resident, the county’s Health Department confirmed in a press release Thursday afternoon.
The Health Department is awaiting confirmation of the test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the individual is isolated and in good condition.
“Monterey County Health Department is prepared for this case and is preparing for other cases, should more occur,” said Monterey County Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno in the press release. “We want to emphasize that this is not a disease that spreads easily through the air like COVID-19.”
The monkeypox virus was first discovered in 1958 in colonies of monkeys kept for research. The first human case was recorded in 1970. The virus has mostly occurred throughout Central and West Africa, often near tropical rainforests. However, scientists at the CDC are currently tracking an outbreak of multiple cases that have been reported in several countries that don’t normally report monkeypox cases.
As of Thursday, there are 173 confirmed monkeypox cases in the United States, 48 of which are cases in California. Infections are rarely fatal and over 99% of people who get the form of the disease associated with the outbreak — the West African strain — are likely to survive. The CDC has continued to emphasize that the risk of monkeypox in the U.S. at this time is believed to be low.
According to the CDC, monkeypox is rare and does not spread easily between people without close contact. The virus can spread from person-to-person through direct contact with the infectious rash; intimate physical contact, such as kissing or sex; breathing at a very close range or sharing bedding and clothing. Pregnant women can also spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta. The CDC said it’s possible for people to get monkeypox from infected animals by being scratched or bitten, preparing or eating meat, or using products from an infected animal.
It can take up to 21 days for symptoms to develop after infection. Monkeypox appears as a distinctive rash or sores on the skin anywhere on the body — including in the genital area — and often begins as flu-like symptoms. Symptoms include a fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash. Patients are usually ill for 2-4 weeks and monkeypox can be spread from the time symptoms begin until the rash has fully healed.
“We do want people who might have been exposed to watch for symptoms and to seek medical care if they develop symptoms,” Moreno continued. “While most cases resolve on their own, monkeypox can be serious in rare cases and we want to prevent further spread in the community.”
There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections, but since monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to treat and prevent monkeypox infections.
According to the CDC, the federal government has stockpiled two vaccines that can prevent monkeypox in people who have been exposed to the virus. The CDC isn’t recommending widespread vaccination against the virus at this time, but vaccination may be recommended for some people who have come in contact with someone with monkeypox or have an increased risk of being exposed to the virus, such as health workers.
Individuals who may have been exposed to monkeypox or who have symptoms should immediately contact a health care provider for evaluation and guidance, said the Monterey County Health Department. Clinicians should report suspected monkeypox cases to the Monterey County Health Department’s Communicable Disease Unit by calling 831-755-4521