The first probable case of monkeypox was detected in DuPage County, health officials said Friday, making it the third reported in Illinois.
The case was discovered in a man who had traveled overseas within the past month to a country that has also recently reported monkeypox infections, the DuPage County Health Department said.
Initial testing was done with the Illinois Department of Public Health and is now proceeding with confirmatory testing at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Based on the initial epidemiological characteristics and the positive IDPH orthopoxvirus result, health officials consider this to be a probable monkeypox infection,” the DCHD said in a statement.
Health officials said the case remains isolated and there is no indication of a greater risk of spread “because monkeypox does not spread as easily as the COVID-19 virus.”
The latest case comes amid a wave of reported cases in the United States and several other countries, health officials said Thursday.
Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness that often begins with flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes, and progresses to a rash on the face and body, health experts have said. It was first observed in Africa in 1970 and is usually found in the western and central parts of the continent.
The CDC is on high alert after cases of the virus were reported in several countries that do not usually report cases of monkeypox, including the United States
On Friday, the CDC reported 49 confirmed cases in multiple states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
“Usually in a normal year we’ll see a few cases, mostly in West Africa, related to animals,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. “There are animals that can carry it and we’ll see, you know, a couple dozen cases where people can get infected just by being in contact with animals. The reason there’s been more attention is that ‘At this point there have been somewhere between 100 cases that have been identified that are not related to the typical way we see monkeypox.’
The virus belongs to the same family as smallpox, and the World Health Organization also urged individuals to be on the lookout after nearly 200 confirmed or suspected cases were reported in at least 12 Western countries. According to officials, the majority of these cases have occurred in Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.
“What makes this a little bit different is the number of cases and the countries that are affected by this,” said Dr. Irfan Hafiz of McHenry and Huntley Hospitals in Northwestern Medicine.
The CDC said “the cases include people who identify as men who have had sex with men,” but stressed that anyone can contract the disease through prolonged contact.
We already have approved vaccines and treatments for monkeypox
Hafiz, an infectious disease specialist, said the virus causes symptoms similar to several illnesses, including chickenpox or smallpox.
“It can, to the layman, look like chickenpox or warts,” he said. “But these (sores) tend to be in exposed areas.”
Health experts have also said the disease could be confused with a sexually transmitted infection like syphilis or herpes, or with the varicella zoster virus.
Federal health officials are urging U.S. physicians to “consider a diagnosis of monkeypox in people who present with a consistent rash, particularly if they meet any of the following criteria:
- Has been in contact with someone who had a rash resembling monkeypox or someone diagnosed with confirmed or probable monkeypox
- Had skin-to-skin contact with someone in a social network experiencing monkeypox activity; this includes men who have sex with men who meet partners through an online website, digital application (app) or social event (eg bar or party)
- Traveled outside of the United States to a country with confirmed cases of monkeypox or where monkeypox activity is ongoing
- Has been in contact with a dead or alive wild animal or exotic pet that only exists in Africa or has used a product derived from these animals (eg game meat, creams, lotions, powders, etc. ).
The virus is rarely fatal, with symptoms ranging from fever, body aches and rashes all over the body.
“Suspected cases may exhibit early flu-like symptoms and progress to lesions that may begin at one site of the body and spread to other parts,” the Chicago Department of Public Health said.
The CDPH said person-to-person transmission is possible through “close physical contact with monkeypox wounds, objects that have been contaminated with fluids or wounds (clothing, bedding, etc.), or droplets respiratory after prolonged face-to-face contact.”
“It’s not just your occasional handshake,” Hafiz said. “(The contact must be) longer, more pronounced. It’s not technically a sexually transmitted disease, but it does involve close contact.
“It takes extended (contact), not minutes,” added NBC News medical contributor Dr. Kavita Patel. “(It may also involve) bodily fluids or injury.”
Infections typically last between two and four weeks, the CDPH said.
Health officials said anyone with “new or unexplained rash, sores, or symptoms, or confirmed exposure” should see their health care provider and “avoid sex or intimate relationships with anyone until it has been seen”.
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