Colorado officials have identified the first suspected case of monkeypox in the state and are awaiting confirmation from federal authorities, the state Department of Public Health and Environment said Thursday.
The patient, a young adult male who sought treatment in Denver, had recently traveled to Canada, where an outbreak of monkeypox has been identified, the agency said.
The state is awaiting confirmation of the case from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No other suspected cases have been identified and the person is working with health authorities. He is recovering and self-isolating at home, the agency said.
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“We want to reassure Coloradans that the risk to the public is low, but we also want them to know the symptoms so we can catch more cases as soon as possible,” said Rachel Herlihy, the epidemiologist. of the state, in a press release.
Also on Thursday, El Paso County Public Health Director Susan Wheelan said her department had not been notified of any cases of monkeypox in El Paso County, but the agency “will continue to monitor the situation locally and provide relevant updates. The risk to the general public remains low.”
Monkeypox belongs to the same family of viruses as smallpox and is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and infectious bodily fluids. Vaccines and treatments exist for the disease, which can cause fever, fatigue, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and a distinct rash usually concentrated in the facial or groin area. Cases often resolve on their own within days or weeks.
Two vaccines that were developed for smallpox are available to prevent monkeypox, and Colorado has requested doses from the federal government, the health department said.
Nationally, only nine other cases have been identified in seven states. But some of these cases are linked to community spread, that is, local transmission as opposed to that linked to travel.
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Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathologies, said “it’s a bit too early to tell” whether the virus has the potential to become endemic in the United States.
“I think we’re in the very early days of our investigations,” McQuiston said. “We don’t know yet how many (cases) there might be.”
“We are working hard to contain the cases that are happening so they don’t spread. So I think it’s a bit too early to tell,” she said.
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But a virus outbreak in 2003 that infected hundreds of animals and several people was successfully contained, McQuiston noted, giving the agency hope that the current outbreak can also be managed.
Although anyone is susceptible to infection with monkeypox, the current epidemic appears to be concentrated among gay and bisexual men. Past outbreaks of monkeypox have circulated primarily in other communities, officials said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.