Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD) confirmed the county’s first monkeypox virus case, or MVP, August 2 in a resident in their 50s. The person was isolating at home after likely being exposed in King County.
WCHD is working to find anyone who may have been a close contact to the first confirmed person to be infected with monkeypox in Whatcom County, according to an August 3 press release that announced the first case. The health department has a limited amount of vaccines to give to the resident’s close contacts.
“It is important for people to know that risk to the general public remains low,” said Amy Harley, co-health officer for WCHD, in the press release. “We have been preparing for the possibility of MPV in Whatcom County for the last few months. The U.S. has successfully controlled outbreaks of MPV in the past. This virus is not spread as easily as Covid-19 and we already have vaccines and treatments available.”
Monkeypox causes a rash that appears similar to bumps, sores, blisters or ulcers and can cause flu-like symptoms. People infected with monkeypox aren’t likely to get seriously ill, according to WCHD, although it can be serious for people who are immunocompromised, pregnant and children. The first Whatcom County resident was not hospitalized.
The Washington state Department of Health confirmed the first monkeypox case in the state in King County on May 27. Many first cases in the state were subsequent to international travel. About 80 countries that have not historically reported monkeypox are having case outbreaks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 134 cases in Washington and 6,617 in the U.S. as of August 4.
The White House declared monkeypox a public health emergency August 4.
A person with monkeypox can spread the virus through close, physical contact with monkeypox wounds; objects, fabrics or surfaces they used; and respiratory drops or oral fluids. Someone can spread monkeypox once they have symptoms until all of their sores are healed and covered with new skin, which can take several weeks.
Most people start experiencing symptoms within one to two weeks of being exposed, but it can take up to three weeks for symptoms to develop.
WCHD officials recommend people with symptoms avoid intimate contact, work with WCHD to contact trace and see a doctor. Men who have sex with men may be at higher risk, according to the WCHD press release.
For more information, visit the Washington state Department of Health website at doh.wa.gov/monkeypox.
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