DENVER — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Public Health laboratory believes it has confirmed a second monkeypox case in the state and is waiting for confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to a news release from Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ office, the first patient believed to have contracted monkeypox is a young adult male and recently visited Canada. He sought medical care in the Denver area.
A presumptive case reported on May 27 is a close contact of the man.
The news release said the risk of catching monkeypox is still low to the general public and is higher among anyone who has been in close contact among people with confirmed or suspected monkeypox, those who have traveled to a country where monkeypox cases have been confirmed. It’s not clear how the individuals were exposed to the virus but cases include people who self-identify as men who have sex with men.
Monkeypox often begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and exhaustion. Typically a rash develops within one to three days after the onset of fever, often beginning on the face and spreading to other parts of the body. In recent cases, the rash often starts in the genital or perianal area. The associated monkeypox rash can look similar to other infections like syphilis or herpes. The incubation period for monkeypox is usually seven to 14 days but can range from less than five to 21 days. Most people recover within two to four weeks, the news release states.
Coloradans can help prevent the spread of monkeypox by avoiding close physical contact with individuals who have acquired monkeypox, wearing a high-quality mask if they will be spending time in close contact with someone experiencing symptoms of monkeypox and contacting a health care provider as soon as possible if they experience symptoms, it continues.
“We want to reassure Coloradans that the risk to the public is low, but we also want them to know of the symptoms so that we can catch other cases as soon as possible,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We are grateful for the collaborative efforts of the CDC, local public health agencies, and health care providers in learning about, treating, and investigating this case.”
Colorado is currently requesting two vaccines available to prevent the infection or decrease its severity from the federal government.
High-risk exposures include unprotected contact between a person’s skin or mucous membranes and the skin, lesions, or bodily fluids from a person known to have active monkeypox virus in their body. The determination of risk and the need for vaccination following an exposure is made by a medical provider with consultation from public health.
Monkeypox outbreaks are currently occurring in Canada, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, and other European countries. Monkeypox is rare in the United States, but has happened in people with international travel or people who had contact with animals from areas where the disease is more common. In 2021, there were two monkeypox cases in the United States associated with international travel, and there was a monkeypox outbreak in six states involving 47 cases associated with contact with infected animals that had contact with small mammals from Ghana in 2003. Neither of these outbreaks included cases in Colorado.
In countries where monkeypox is more common, people who catch the infection are typically exposed through bites or scratches from infected rodents and small mammals, preparing wild game, or having contact with an infected animal or possibly animal products. Monkeypox does not happen regularly in animals that live in the United States. The virus can also spread from human to human through large respiratory droplets, but this likely requires prolonged face-to-face contact, the release states. Other human-to-human ways of spreading the virus include direct contact with body fluids or broken lesions, and through contaminated clothing or linens.
You can find more information about monkeypox cases in the United States and the virus on the CDC website.
Alison Berg is a multimedia journalist with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at email@example.com.