First case of monkeypox confirmed in Johnson County

Handwashing and avoiding close contact with infected individuals is the best way to prevent monkeypox, according to the CDC. — Jav Ducker/Little Village

The Johnson County Public Health Department (JCPH) announced the first confirmed case of monkeypox in Johnson County on Tuesday evening. It is the fifth confirmed case of the virus in Iowa.

JCPH is working with the Iowa Department of Public Health “to investigate the circumstances of exposure and inform close contacts,” JCPH said in a news release.

Monkeypox is sometimes mischaracterized as an STI, and while it can be transmitted though sexual contact there are other ways the virus can spread from person to person, as well from animals to people, according to the CDC.

Monkeypox spreads in different ways. The virus can spread from person-to-person through:

• direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids

• respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex

• touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids

• pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta

It’s also possible for people to get monkeypox from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal.

Infected individuals “sometimes develop a flu-like illness with fever, fatigue, and enlarged lymph nodes followed by a rash,” JCPH explains. “In other instances, people only develop a rash with or without swollen lymph nodes, that can look like pimples or blisters on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus. People usually develop monkeypox 7 to 14 days (and up to 21 days) after being exposed.”

To prevent infection, the CDC recommends not having close contact with someone who has the virus, is displaying signs associated with the virus, or suspects they have been in close contact with someone who is infected. Also, do not share utensils or cups with an infected individual, and do not touch their clothing, bedding or towels. The CDC recommends frequent handwashing and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

People experiencing any symptoms associated with monkeypox should contact their healthcare provider, and anyone who develops a rash should isolate at home away from other members of the household.

“There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections,” according to the CDC. “However, monkeypox and smallpox viruses are genetically similar, which means that antiviral drugs and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be used to prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections.”

The Monkeypox virus — Corona Borealis Studio/Shutterstock

Monkeypox was first identified in 1958, when researchers in Denmark noticed a pox-like disease occurring in colonies of monkeys being used for research. Despite the name, it is unclear if the disease originated among monkeys. In regions of Africa where the disease is endemic, it is also found in rodents.

Monkeypox belongs to the same family of viruses as smallpox, but is much milder and rarely fatal. Of the two types of the virus, the Congo Basin type is more commonly associated with fatalities among untreated individuals who are immunocompromised. The current global outbreak involves the West Africa type, and over 99 percent of infected individuals recover.

The current outbreak began in May, and the virus has now been detected in 64 countries. That same month, the first case in the United States was confirmed when a Massachusetts residents tested positive for the virus. That person is believed to have become infected during a visit to Canada. The first case in Iowa was confirmed in Polk County on July 11.

The virus has been confirmed in 45 states, with more than 2,100 people testing positive.