Santa Clara County is investigating a possible case of monkeypox, a rare disease that has some on edge two years into the COVID-19 pandemic.
A resident who recently returned to the area after traveling abroad has preliminarily tested positive for monkeypox virus, county officials said late Thursday. The Stanford Clinical Virology Lab confirmed it tested the case Wednesday and reported the positive infection to the county as required. The infected person is in isolation.
Officials declined to release further information on the person to protect their privacy.
The county is working with the state Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to confirm the infection. Santa Clara County officials expect confirmation in a few days.
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. It spreads through skin-to-skin contact, and prolonged face-to-face interaction, according to health experts.
Infected people tend to experience flu-like symptoms, swelling of the lymph nodes and a rash that includes bumps filled with fluid that often start in the genital area. The disease disproportionately impacts those with a history of international travel, and gay and bisexual men, health experts said.
The overall risk of monkeypox to the general population is low, but local health officials are encouraging residents to contact their health care provider immediately if they experience any symptoms. Santa Clara County will increase its monkeypox testing capacity within the next week.
“The most important thing for people to do is if they have symptoms of a rash, particularly if they have a new partner, is to seek care from a medical provider as soon as possible,” said Dr. Monika Roy, county communicable disease controller and assistant health officer.
Health officials are working to identify other individuals who might come in close contact with the infected person. The county is also partnering with community organizations and medical providers to educate residents on prevention and testing.
Monkeypox, a member of the Orthopox family of viruses, can be spread from infected humans, animals and materials contaminated with the virus, the California Department of Public Health says on its website. Other family members include the viruses that cause smallpox and cowpox, but the monkeypox is less transmissible and usually less severe than smallpox. The first human monkeypox case was identified in 1970.
More than 170 positive monkeypox infections have been reported in nearly two dozens U.S. states since mid-May, according to the CDC. California has identified 48 cases as of Thursday afternoon. More than 3,300 cases have been detected in 42 countries around the world.
While monkeypox infections are rising across the nation, local health experts say it’s not a source of panic.
“This is not SARS, this is not HIV, it’s a relatively mild disease with relatively mild symptoms,” Dr. George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology at UC San Francisco, told San José Spotlight, noting the infection is rarely fatal. “In most cases, if you leave it alone, it’ll go away in a few weeks.”
Dr. Stanley Deresinski, a clinical professor at Stanford Health Care, echoed that the disease will not turn into another plague. Stanford is one of the first clinical sites in the country to provide testing for monkeypox.
“This won’t be anything like COVID because of the way it’s transmitted,” Deresinski told San José Spotlight. He also urged residents who experience symptoms and those who might have been exposed to the disease to seek medical help.
Santa Clara County first sent out an advisory to all health care providers in late May notifying them about rising cases in the U.S. Click here for more information about the disease in Santa Clara County.
Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.