As more cases of the monkeypox virus are being reported around the nation and world, Barbara Cole, the director of disease control for Riverside County Public Health, said the current threat to the region is considered low.
In Riverside County, Cole said she has received five reports of people with rashes, but they have not been confirmed as monkeypox cases.
“As of right now, we consider the threat to be low,” she said.
Los Angeles County health officials said Thursday they have confirmed the county’s first presumptive case of monkeypox, but they are awaiting final confirmation of the case by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three cases of monkeypox were also previously confirmed in Sacramento County in Northern California, as well as countries around the world.
The California Department of Public Health states the “risk of monkeypox to the public is currently very low based on the information available.”
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with monkeypox virus, and the first human case was reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus is usually found in Central and West Africa and does not occur naturally in the US, but recent national cases have been discovered due to international travel or animals imported from areas where the disease is more common.
Symptoms, which can occur five to 21 days after exposure, include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, rash and lesions. Illness typically lasts for two to four weeks. The CDC states monkeypox is fatal in as many as 1% to 11% of people who become infected.
People usually become infected through close contact with skin lesions or bodily fluids of infected animals or humans (alive or dead), such as droplets, as well as sexual contact, Cole explained.
Many cases around the world have occurred among people self-identifying as men who have sex with men. Dr. Shubha Kerkar, director of Infectious Diseases at DAP Health, a health care organization that provides a wide range of services, said in a statement that it’s important to not discriminate and that the virus can affect anyone.
“I believe it is very important that we don’t use the current outbreak to cause stigma toward the LGBTQ communities,” Kerkar said. “The reason the current outbreak was first reported in gay and bisexual men is because the diagnosis happened at sexual wellness clinics.”
The Riverside County disease control director said people should avoid contact with those who are infected, especially dead animals. Even if an animal didn’t have the virus, they might be carrying other illnesses.
“Keep away from people if they do have a rash. It might just be chickenpox, it may not be monkeypox at all, but these types of things can spread,” Cole said. “Handwashing is always an effective measure. If someone was in a location where they didn’t have soap and water, they can use a hand sanitizer until they could get to a place to wash their hands.”
Public Health also suggests avoiding contact with materials, like bedding, that have been in contact with a sick animal or person.
Because it is a virus, antibiotics won’t help treat symptoms. Cole suggests people speak with their health care providers first if they suspect they might have monkeypox. They should avoid going to a clinic or health care setting before speaking with a provider first so that facilities can take appropriate precautions to protect others.
A frequently asked questions page is available at https://tinyurl.com/bdz2ytja.
Ema Sasic covers health in the Coachella Valley. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ema_sasic.