Health officials have confirmed that a patient tested positive for the highly contagious monkeypox virus in an individual who has recently traveled to Africa.
Monkeypox is a disease transmitted primarily through close contact with a person or animal carrying the virus.
The Maryland State Department of Health said in a news release that two people who visited the Prince George’s County health department have been isolated and are being monitored for symptoms and possible exposure to the virus. The agencies said the individuals, both from Maryland, became ill a few days after the trip but traveled home before suffering the symptoms.
Officials said that at this time, the virus is limited to the two Marylandans and their family and friends who have been exposed.
Monkeypox was first detected in 1961 in monkeys in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s not transmitted to humans, the CDC said.
“Although it is rare, the infection can cause serious illness,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a press release. “Health officials are working to prevent additional infections by closely monitoring the two people in Maryland for symptoms. Officials are also testing people they think may have been exposed to the virus in Africa.”
Monkeypox is generally fatal. Infection typically occurs when an infected animal or human comes into contact with the virus from contact with monkeys or ticks infected with the monkeypox virus. Infected individuals may initially develop symptoms of flu-like illnesses such as fever, aches, coughing, and body aches.
“People usually develop a fever and body aches at the same time,” the CDC said. “But some people also develop a rash. The rash may start as a bright red rash on the trunk, arms or legs with a series of short, red bumps with a globular appearance. The rash spreads over the trunk to the rest of the body. Some people with monkeypox may also develop a large blisters (maul) of measles-like inflammation around the eyes. Some people may develop complications, which include complications with the heart, brain, spine, lungs, and kidneys.”
“If the person develops the rash, they need to stay away from the person who became infected and their family and contacts, but not public health workers, to prevent transmission,” the CDC said.
Most people infected with monkeypox will recover from their symptoms without treatment. Those who develop bleeding and other symptoms might need medical treatment, the CDC said.
Symptoms typically last three to five days but it can take up to three weeks before a person fully recovers.
It is very difficult to diagnose monkeypox, the CDC said.
Cases that are confirmed as monkeypox may cause immediate reactions like fever and muscle aches. Infected individuals may also get a rash on the trunk. But patients often do not get any symptoms and may not realize they have monkeypox. So people may start to show signs of disease about one to two weeks after they were infected.
Monkeypox cases rarely make it to the United States. This is because people traveling to and from Africa are screened for other diseases before they travel, and these diseases can spread easily through close contact with infectious people.
Monkeypox cases may be difficult to diagnose because of the under-reporting of diseases in the U.S. and Africa, officials said.
About one in 1,000 people in the U.S. are infected each year, according to the CDC. About three out of 1,000 people infected are hospitalized.
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