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Suspected monkeypox case reported in Sacramento County

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Cynthia S. Goldsmith & Russell Regner
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CDC via AP, File
The monkeypox virus seen through an electron microscope.

A suspected case of monkeypox was reported in Sacramento County Tuesday, as a rare outbreak of the disease continues to move around the globe.

Sacramento County health officials say confirmation testing is still pending from the California Department of Public Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control, but based on the patient's symptoms, a monkeypox diagnosis is likely. It would be the first reported case in the state.

“This case appears to be related to recent travel to Europe,” Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said in a press release. “Public Health is working with CDPH to conduct contact tracing, and risk to the general public is extremely low.”

Health officials said the patient is isolating at home and not in contact with any other people.

According to the Associated Press, at least 90 people have been infected in 12 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Spain and England. Health officials aren't yet sure how the outbreak started, but are concerned the spread could signal a change from its typical behavior.

A White House official told NPR on Monday that the risk to the general public is low.

Dr. Raj Panjabi, Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense at the National Security Council, said that vaccines and even treatments are available for monekypox.

"The cases reported among Americans so far have been limited to those who've traveled to affected countries or have had very close contact with symptomatic patients," Panjabi said. "And so far, the cases we've seen have not been severe. The majority of infected individuals have flu-like symptoms and a rash, which can be painful but resolves in two to four weeks."

He noted that in previous U.S. outbreaks in 2021 and 2003, all patients fully recovered.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a disease that causes fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes. The lesions are similar to those caused by smallpox.

Despite the name monkeypox, it doesn't come from monkeys. The disease was first discovered in 1958 in colonies of monkeys kept for research, which led to the name.

Unlike COVID-19, monkeypox does not spread through the air, but only through "close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding," according to the WHO. There is a vaccine available for monkeypox.

"There is no evidence, to date, that person-to-person transmission alone can sustain monkeypox infections in the human population," a WHO factsheet says.

While the disease most often occurs in central and west Africa, cases and outbreaks have happened throughout the world, including one in the midwestern U.S. in 2003.

Chris Hagan is the Managing Editor, Digital Content for CapRadio.
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