California Officials Investigating First Potential Case of Monkeypox in State

1997 Brian W.J. Mahy, BSc, MA, PhD, ScD, DSc This image was created during a investigation into an outbreak of monkeypox, which took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 1996 to 1997, formerly Zaire. Pictured here, were the arms and torso, i.e., thorax and abdomen, of a …
CDC via AP

California officials are investigating the first potential case of monkeypox in the state, according to reports.

The Sacramento County Division of Public Health made the announcement on Tuesday, referencing a potential case via an individual who recently traveled to Europe. While more testing is needed, officials seem to think this could be the first case in the Golden State, but they also said the risk to the general public remains low.

“This case appears to be related to recent travel to Europe,” Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye stated. “Public Health is working with CDPH to conduct contact tracing, and risk to the general public is extremely low.”

Cases of monkeypox, which is in the same family as smallpox, have now emerged in Europe, North America, Israel and Australia. While what specifically sparked the recent outbreak remains unclear, public health officials believe recent transmission and spread could be linked to sexual activity which took place at two raves in Europe.
According to the AP:

Dr. David Heymann, who formerly headed WHO’s emergencies department, told The Associated Press that the leading theory to explain the spread of the disease was sexual transmission at raves held in Spain and Belgium. Monkeypox has not previously triggered widespread outbreaks beyond Africa, where it is endemic in animals.

“We know monkeypox can spread when there is close contact with the lesions of someone who is infected, and it looks like sexual contact has now amplified that transmission,” said Heymann.

Health officials say most of the known cases in Europe have been among men who have sex with men, but anyone can be infected through close contact with a sick person, their clothing or bedsheets. Scientists say it will be difficult to disentangle whether the spread is being driven by sex or merely close contact.

As of Tuesday, outside of the potential case in California, there is one confirmed case of monkeypox in Massachusetts, as well as six presumed cases among individuals in New York (1), Washington (1), Utah (2), and Florida (2). 

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