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UPDATE: First case of monkeypox confirmed in N. Va.

Colorized transmission electron micrograph of monkeypox virus particles cultivated and purified from cell culture (photo via NIAID/Flickr)

Update at 3:30 p.m. — The Virginia Dept. of Health says it has confirmed the first monkeypox infection in the state.

Earlier: A Northern Virginia woman likely has monkeypox, the Virginia Dept. of Health announced today.

In a press release Thursday afternoon, VDH said the woman was isolating at home and not hospitalized. She became infected after recently traveling “to an African country where the disease is known to occur.”

The state health department did not say where in Northern Virginia the woman lives.

If confirmed, it’s Virginia’s first case of the viral disease, which has been spreading internationally. In the U.S., cases have been reported in several states including New York, Florida, Washington and Massachusetts.

VDH noted that monkeypox remains rare and has “not shown the ability to spread rapidly in the general population.” The disease can be serious and cause death and there’s no specific treatment for it.

The full press release is below.

Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced the first presumed monkeypox case in a Virginia resident. The initial testing was completed at the Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services. VDH is awaiting confirmatory test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The patient is an adult female resident of the Northern region of Virginia with recent international travel history to an African country where the disease is known to occur. She was not infectious during travel. She did not require hospitalization and is isolating at home to monitor her health. To protect patient privacy, no further information will be provided. The health department is identifying and monitoring the patient’s close contacts.  No additional cases have been detected in Virginia at this time.

“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. 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, or
  • Men who regularly have close or intimate contact with other men.

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.

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websitethe World Health Organization website and the VDH website.

Photo via NIAID/Flickr

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