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Northern Va. woman contracts first monkeypox case in the state: health officials

A Northern Va. woman has become the first person to contract monkeypox in the state, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).
A Northern Va. woman has become the first person to contract monkeypox in the state, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).
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A northern Virginia woman has contracted the first case of monkeypox in the state, the Virginia Department of Health confirmed Thursday.

SEE ALSO | Fact Check Team: Managing the spread of monkeypox

She recently traveled internationally to an African country where the disease is known to occur, the department said. She was not infectious during travel and no additional cases have been detected in Virginia at this time.

She did not require hospitalization and is isolated at home to monitor her health, officials said. To protect patient privacy, no further information will be provided.

The health department is identifying and monitoring the patient’s close contacts.

Despite Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying Thursday that the current cases reported in the U.S. "are within gay or bi-sexual men."

"Really anyone, regardless of whatever your gender or sexual identity or travel history, should be on alert that this is circulating," said Brandy Darby a veterinary epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health.

RELATED | Monkeypox is spreading around the world -- Doctor explains its symptoms

The initial testing was completed at the Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services. VDH is awaiting confirmatory test results from the CCD.

“Monkeypox is a very rare disease in the United States. The patient is currently isolating and does not pose a risk to the public,” said State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH. “Transmission requires close contact with someone with symptomatic monkeypox, and this virus has not shown the ability to spread rapidly in the general population. VDH is monitoring national and international trends and has notified medical providers in Virginia to watch for monkeypox cases and report them to their local health district as soon as possible. Based on the limited information currently available about the evolving multi-country outbreak, the risk to the public appears to be very low.”

Although rare, monkeypox is a potentially serious viral illness that is transmitted when someone has close contact with an infected person or animal.

READ ALSO | Monkeypox outbreak likely spread during 2 sex raves in Europe, says expert

Health officials know that many are feeling weary of recent headlines as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

"I think we all came through COVID with a little post-traumatic stress and we're kind of all feeling that," Darby said. "This is different. "With COVID-19 we can have people who don't show any signs of illness who are capable of being infected and transmitting the virus, and that's not the case with monkeypox."

Darby said monkeypox is typically only infectious when a person is symptomatic, showing skin lesions that start as flat red marks that progressively become raised.

Beyond direct contact with body fluids or lesions experts say the virus can also be spread through indirect contact with contaminated clothing or bedding, and through prolonged face-to-face contact through larger respiratory droplets.

"The normal course of illness really begins with kind of flu-like symptoms," said Darby. "You might have a fever. You might have some swollen lymph nodes, and feel really achy and tired, and usually a couple of days later is when the rash will begin."

Person-to-person spread occurs with prolonged close contact or with direct contact with body fluids or contact with contaminated materials such as clothing or linens. Illness typically begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, and swelling of the lymph nodes.

After a few days, a specific type of rash appears, often starting on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body. Symptoms generally appear seven to 14 days after exposure and, for most people, clear up within two to four weeks. Some people can have severe illness and die. As with many viral illnesses, treatment mainly involves supportive care and relief of symptoms.

If you are sick and have symptoms consistent with monkeypox, seek medical care from your healthcare provider, especially if you are in one of the following groups:

  • Those who traveled to central or west African countries, parts of Europe where monkeypox cases have been reported, or other areas with confirmed cases of monkeypox during the month before their symptoms began
  • Those who have had contact with a person with confirmed or suspected monkeypox
  • Men who regularly have close or intimate contact with other men, including meeting partners through an online website, digital application (“app”), or at a bar or party.
  • If you need to seek care, call your healthcare provider first. Let them know you are concerned about possible monkeypox infection so they can take precautions to ensure that others are not exposed.

On May 20, 2022, VDH distributed a Clinician Letter to medical professionals reminding them to report any suspected cases of monkeypox to their local health department as soon as possible and implement appropriate infection prevention precautions.

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For more information, visit the CDC website.

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