Alameda County health officials Thursday said a resident has tested positive for an orthopox virus and is suspected to be infected with monkeypox, a smallpox cousin whose recent global spread outside of Africa where it originated has concerned medical authorities.
The California Department of Public Health tested the patient for orthopox, the family of viruses that includes smallpox, cowpox and monkeypox, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is further testing to confirm a monkeypox infection.
“Alameda County is prepared to respond to this and possible future cases,” said Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss said in a statement.
Alameda County health officials said the patient, their first suspected case, was a close contact of someone who also recently tested positive for orthopox, but said privacy law prevents disclosure of additional information.
While the number of probable and confirmed cases has grown to eight in California and 40 across the United States, the risk of monkeypox to the general population is low, health officials said.
California health officials announced the state’s first suspected monkeypox case May 24 in a Sacramento County patient who had traveled abroad. The first U.S. case was announced May 18 in a Massachusetts resident who had recently returned from a trip to Canada.
San Francisco announced a probable monkeypox case June 3.
Monkeypox spreads through direct, close contact with an infected person. The virus enters the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract, or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth after skin or sexual contact, from bodily fluids, or contact with contaminated clothing or linens, health officials said.
Patients infected with the monkeypox virus may experience flu-like symptoms and a rash on their face, extremities, or genital area. Though most cases are mild, some monkeypox infections can lead to severe illness and death. But treatment and vaccines are available for people who are exposed.
“It is vital that a person who suspects they have monkeypox or are experiencing symptoms contact their health care provider right away,” said Dr. Kavita Trivedi, Alameda County Communicable Disease Controller. “We are ready to receive more reports from health care providers, provide guidance, connect possible cases to testing, and contact trace.”