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Butte County expects more monkeypox vaccine this month, detects first probable case

An electron microscopy image of mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 outbreak.
Associated Press
An electron microscopy image of mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions, left, and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a sample of human skin associated with the 2003 outbreak.

A probable case of monkeypox has been identified in Butte County.

County health officials reported Monday that the sample was taken from a local resident and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will need to confirm the result.

The county found out about the probable case about 8 or 9 days ago, according to Dr. David Canton, health officer for the Butte County Public Health Department.

“We immediately began contact investigation and contact tracing,” he said. “We've worked through that and the normal processes that we would with any case investigation. We've done isolation and quarantine as appropriate. So we feel fairly comfortable with this case that we’ll not see a lot of ongoing spread.”

Canton declined to say how or where the individual may have contracted monkeypox. He added that monkeypox doesn’t spread like COVID-19, but instead through skin-to-skin or close intimate contact. He said the virus is currently being detected most often in men who have sex with men, although anyone can contract it.

“I think the key thing is to be vigilant, be aware,” Canton said. “Remember that this is from close and prolonged physical contact with somebody who has been infected. But we don't need to really be concerned and spread wide concern, because this spread does require that close contact.”

Symptoms of the virus may start out like the flu with fever, low energy, swollen lymph nodes and general body aches. According to theCalifornia Department of Public Health (CDPH), the infected person may develop a rash or sores within 1 to 3 days of having a fever. These can look like blisters or pimples and can be itchy or painful.

As of July 19, CDPH has reported 356 probable and confirmed cases throughout the state. According to the CDC there have been no reported deaths due to the virus in the United States since the outbreak started in May.

Canton added that the virus has been deadly in parts of West and Central Africa where it is endemic, but it's unclear why it has not been deadly in the U.S.

“The lesions can become infected, so there's issues there,” he said. “But people seem at this point — and we're early in this disease — seem to recover fairly well.”

Canton said Butte County received its first shipment of monkeypox vaccine doses last week.

“People who are at a high risk — close contacts and confirmed cases — will be the ones at this point to receive vaccination. We expect more vaccine [to] be distributed over the next month,” he said. “So as more vaccine becomes available, then more people at risk will be eligible for vaccination.”

At this time, Canton said the public health department is contacting anyone eligible for vaccines directly. Those who are concerned about possible exposure, he said, should call their healthcare provider to seek care.

Adia White is a broadcast journalist and producer with nearly 10 years of experience. Her work has appeared on WNYC, This American Life, Capital Public Radio and other local and national programs. She started at North State Public Radio as a freelance reporter in 2017 before leaving for a stint at Northern California Public Media in Santa Rosa.