Washoe County Health District officials today reported the first probable case of monkeypox in the region. The case is in a man in his 20s who had recently traveled domestically and is isolating at home.
“This is something that we’re not surprised to have occurring,” District Health Officer Kevin Dick said during a press briefing. “We want to remind everyone to be vigilant and be looking for symptoms of monkeypox. If you do have symptoms, talk to your doctor.”
No other cases have been reported in Washoe County, but health officials are investigating the probable case and conducting contact tracing to determine if there may be others who have the virus.
Specimens from the probable case have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmation of monkeypox, according to WCHD epidemiologist Nancy Diao.
Monkeypox is in the same virus family as smallpox, but Diao said the current strain being seen is rarely fatal. What does have health officials concerned, she said, is that it is spreading in countries where it is not normally seen.
The virus spreads person-to-person through physical contact, such as touching an infected person’s rash.
According to the CDC, the current monkeypox outbreak is “largely affecting gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men,” however anyone can get the disease through close physical contact with someone who is infected.
Symptoms can include fever, headache and muscle aches, chills, exhaustion, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that can look like pimples and appear on the face, in the mouth or other body parts including hands, feet, chest and genitals.
Diao said the appearance of the rash is the most important symptom to watch for. Once the rash appears a person can transmit the virus to others who come in close contact. They must isolate until the rash goes away and all of the scabs have healed.
A vaccine for the virus is available, but is in limited supply. State and federal agencies are managing the supply of the vaccine, and to-date fewer than 100 doses have come to Washoe County. Only those with confirmed contact with a known case or those who work in labs and handle specimens are eligible for the vaccine.
Right now the CDC says the general public doesn’t need to be vaccinated for this virus.
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience working in marketing, public relations and communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. She also serves as director of communications for Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit. Though she now lives in Atlanta, she is a Nevadan for life and uses her three-hour time advantage to get a jump on the morning’s news.