The Virginia Department of Health said Thursday that it’s found the first presumed case of monkeypox in a commonwealth resident.
VDH is awaiting test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation.
The health agency said the patient is a woman from Northern Virginia who recently traveled to an African country.
She was not infectious during travel, did not require hospitalization and is isolating at home to monitor her health, according to VDH. The health department is identifying and monitoring her close contacts.
No additional cases have yet been detected in Virginia, authorities said.
“Monkeypox is a very rare disease in the United States. The patient is currently isolating and does not pose a risk to the public,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Colin M. Greene said in a statement.
“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.”
Monkeypox, rare as it may be, is a potentially serious viral illness. VDH said it’s transmitted when someone has close contact with an infected person or animal. That transmission between people happens with prolonged close contact or with direct contact with body fluids or contact with the lesions of someone who has it, or even contaminated materials such as clothing or linens.
“I think that the good news here is that monkey pox really doesn’t transmit as readily as COVID-19 does. So I think we can, you know, take a little bit of a deep breath there,” said Brandy Darby, Veterinary Epidemiologist with VDH told WTOP.
VDH said the sickness starts 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,” VDH said. “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.”
Darby said one thing they are noticing with some cases of the virus showing up in both Europe and the United States, and not necessarily including the Virginia case, is some people are only getting the rash, and that the rash is confined to a sufferer’s genitalia.
Per the Virginia Department of Health:
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, including meeting partners through an online website, digital application (“app”), or at a bar or party.
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 website, the World Health Organization website and the VDH website.
WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report.