A Brookhaven Town resident tested positive for monkeypox, the first confirmed case in Suffolk County since an outbreak in the United States began of the rare virus that leads to symptoms similar to smallpox.
The Suffolk County Department of Health announced Friday that the person was seen by a local health care provider and is following isolation protocols at home. The New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center Laboratory tested for monkeypox, the virus which belongs to the orthopoxvirus genus.
There have been 96 confirmed cases in New York State and about 400 in the United State to date, the county health department said.
Monkeypox is rarely fatal.
“While the current risk to the general public is low, we urge the public as well as health care providers in Suffolk County to be aware that this rare virus has been found in the region and to know the signs and symptoms and manner of transmission of the monkeypox virus,” Dr. Gregson Pigott, the county health commissioner, said in a statement.
Anyone with a rash that looks like monkeypox should contact a health care provider, the health department says.
On May 18, a Massachusetts resident tested positive for monkeypox after returning to the U.S. from Canada and is the first confirmed case in the current outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Monkeypox can spread from person-to-person “often through direct and prolonged contact with the infectious rash, scabs, body fluids or respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling or sex,” the health department said. “It may also spread by touching items, such as clothing or linens with infectious body fluids.”
A pregnant woman can also spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta.
The health department said recent monkeypox cases in the region have involved a rash that “is often in the genital and peri-anal regions and may include other symptoms such as fever, swollen lymph nodes, and pain when swallowing, before or after the rash appearance.”
Most infections last two to four weeks. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.
Scientists at the CDC have been tracking multiple cases of monkeypox that were reported in countries that don’t typically report monkeypox, including the United States. Early data has shown that gay or bisexual men have made up a high number of cases, the CDC said.
“However, anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk,” a statement overview on the outbreak says.
Symptoms of monkeypox can include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appear on the face, inside the mouth and on other parts of the body, according to the CDC. In some cases, the rash appears first, followed by other symptoms. Some people only experience a rash.
Cases have been reported across the county in more than half of the states.
Two vaccines licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are available to prevent monkeypox infection. However, there is currently a limited supply of the vaccine known as JYNNEOS in the U.S. with more expected in the coming weeks and months, the CDC says. A second vaccine known as ACAM2000 has ample supply, but should not be used in people who have health conditions such as a weakened immune system, skin conditions or women who are pregnant. The CDC currently does not recommend widespread vaccination against monkeypox. It is recommended for some people who are close personal contacts of people with the virus or have been exposed to it.
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 and the first human case was recorded in 1970 and cases have largely been in center and western African countries. Prior to the current outbreak, “nearly all monkeypox cases in people outside Africa were linked to international travel to countries where the disease commonly occurs, or through imported animals,” the CDC says.
There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections, although antivirals used for smallpox can be used, the CDC says.
An outbreak of monkeypox in 2003 in the United States resulted in 47 confirmed cases in six states. All of the confirmed cases were people who had contact with pet prairie dogs. The pets had gotten infected when housed near imported small mammals from Ghana. It was the time human monkeypox was reported outside Africa, the CDC says.