RICHMOND — The Virginia Department of Health on Monday announced a suspected case of monkeypox in a Virginia resident in northwest Virginia, bringing the total number of cases in Virginia to 27. Testing was conducted in the General Services Division, Consolidated Laboratory Services Division.
Multiple countries, including the United States, are currently experiencing an epidemic of monkeypox. To date, most, but not all, cases have occurred in individuals who identify as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men (MSM), the health release said. To date, three deaths have been reported worldwide from this outbreak. As of July 8, the CDC reported 8,238 cases of monkeypox identified in 57 countries; 790 cases were reported in the United States.
The new case is an elderly male resident of northwest Virginia. The patient is currently in isolation. To protect patient privacy, no additional information will be provided. The health department is identifying and monitoring close contacts of the patients, the release said.
Monkeypox is a potentially serious viral disease characterized by a specific type of rash. Rash lesions may begin on the genitals, perianal area, or oral cavity and may be the first or only sign of disease. Coinfection with sexually transmitted infections has been reported. Some patients also have fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and/or swollen lymph nodes before developing a rash. Symptoms usually appear six to 14 days after exposure and disappear within two to four weeks for most people. Person-to-person spread occurs through close contact or through direct contact with bodily fluids or contact with contaminated materials such as clothing or underwear.
Although there is no approved treatment for monkeypox in the United States, some treatment options may be helpful. As with many viral diseases, treatment mainly involves supportive care and relief of symptoms. For patients who have severe disease or are at high risk of developing severe disease, treatment may be available through the federal government with VDH coordination. Two vaccines are also available through the federal government as post-exposure prophylaxis for people who have had close contact with someone with monkeypox and are at the highest risk of exposure.
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According to the Virginia Department of Health, if you have symptoms consistent with monkeypox, seek immediate medical attention from your health care provider, especially if you are in one of the following groups:
- Those who have had contact with someone who has had a rash that looks like monkeypox or someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox
- Those who have had skin-to-skin contact with someone on a social network with monkeypox, this includes men who have sex with men
- Those who have traveled to places or attended events where cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in the month before the onset of symptoms
- Those who have had contact with household items, such as towels, bedding or clothing, used by a person with suspected or known orthopox or monkeypox virus infection
- Those who have had contact with a dead or live wild animal or exotic pet from Africa or have used a product derived from such animals (eg game meat, creams, lotions, powders, etc.
If you need to get help, call your healthcare provider first. Tell them you are concerned about a possible monkeypox infection so they can take precautions to ensure others are not exposed. Healthcare providers are reminded to report all suspected cases of monkeypox to their local health department as soon as possible, even if the monkeypox test is conducted in a commercial laboratory. They should also take appropriate precautions to prevent infection.
The federal government is expanding access to monkeypox vaccination for at-risk individuals and is working to make testing more convenient for health care providers and patients across the country. VDH is actively working with our federal partners to make these services more accessible to Virginians.
For more information, visit the VDH website, the CDC website, and the World Health Organization website.
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Monique Calello (she/her/her) is a health and social justice reporter for The News Leader in Staunton, Virginia. She can be reached at [email protected]