Alaska reported its first known case of monkeypox on Friday, involving a resident of Anchorage.
The person – whose symptoms began about a week ago and whose test result came back yesterday – did not need to be hospitalized and is isolating at home, according to Dr Joe McLaughlin, epidemiologist from the state of Alaska.
The first case of the virus in Alaska is part of a global outbreak that has spread to thousands of people in dozens of countries in just weeks, prompting the World Health Organization to declare a global emergency last week.
As of Friday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reported nearly 5,000 U.S. cases across 47 states.
Despite the epidemic spreading rapidly around the world, McLaughlin encouraged Alaskans not to panic.
“For the vast majority of Alaskans, their risk is very, very low of contracting monkeypox,” he said in a phone interview Friday.
The current strain also appears to have a very low mortality rate: no confirmed deaths from monkeypox have yet been reported in the United States and, according to the CDC, more than 99% of patients can be expected to survive.
The Anchorage resident who tested positive had not recently traveled but was close contact with someone who had recently traveled outside of Alaska, state and municipal health departments said in a joint press release.
Any close contact of this person will be notified and will be offered a vaccine. Vaccines are not currently available or recommended for the general public, Alaska and Anchorage health officials said in the statement.
Monkeypox is a disease caused by infection with a smallpox virus that belongs to the same family of viruses that cause smallpox as well as the recently identified Alaskapox, which was discovered in the Fairbanks area.
[Previously: What is monkeypox, and what are Alaska health officials doing to prepare for its arrival?]
The illness typically begins with flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, muscle and back pain, chills and “just general exhaustion” within one to two weeks of exposure, according to McLaughlin.
Within one to three days, the patient will develop a rash that often starts on the face and spreads to other parts of the body, but not always.
The rash usually starts out as a red, flat area that can turn into a razor bump-like swelling and then cloudy-looking pustules. The illness usually lasts two to four weeks.
Although monkeypox does not spread easily between people, transmission can occur when a person has skin-to-skin contact with bodily fluids or monkeypox sores; through contact with objects that have been contaminated, such as bedding and clothing; or by prolonged face-to-face contact.
While anyone can get or spread monkeypox, the vast majority of cases in the United States have occurred in men who have sex with men.
Within this community, the risk of transmission is highest among people who have had multiple sexual partners or who frequently have anonymous sex, McLaughlin said.
“Monkeypox does not transmit as efficiently” as COVID-19, he said. “It really requires intimate contact for long periods of time.”
The monkeypox vaccine and treatments are in short supply around the world, but McLaughlin said the state is working with federal partners who oversee the national stockpile to ensure vaccines and treatments are received in the state. .
Currently, the state has about 100 vaccine doses available, and McLaughlin said he was just notified by the CDC that Alaska had received more than 400 more doses.
Due to limited supply, only people with known close contact with a confirmed case are eligible for the vaccine. McLaughlin said he hopes that will change as more vaccines become available.
“Ideally, we would like to have a larger vaccine supply for Alaska and the country so that we can really vaccinate anyone deemed to be at high risk of exposure,” McLaughlin said, including men who have sex with women. men.
The state health department is also communicating with health care providers and the general public about routes of transmission, signs and symptoms to look for, and how to test and treat those infected.
“The best thing people can do if they have symptoms of monkeypox or experience a new, unexplained rash is to stay home and contact their health care provider immediately,” said Dr. Brian Piltz, physician. from the Anchorage Department of Health. Friday’s written statement.
“This will allow us to provide rapid treatment and quickly identify close contacts who may be eligible for vaccination,” he said.