The Sacramento County Public Health Department has reported the first likely case of monkeypox in California. The individual began presenting with monkeypox symptoms after returning from Europe, where the virus has been circulating. Preliminary testing was consistent with monkeypox.
“This case appears to be related to recent travel to Europe,” said Dr. Olivia Kasirye, Sacramento County Public Health Officer. “[Sacramento County] Public Health is working with CDPH to conduct contact tracing, and risk to the general public is extremely low.”
Monkeypox is a rare infectious disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. It was discovered in 1958 in West Africa. The illness is related to and similar to smallpox, though less infectious. Symptoms include:
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Distinct rash
The prognosis for monkeypox depends on the strain. The West African strain, which has caused the most recent outbreak, has a fatality rate under 1%. The Congo Basin or Central African strain, however, has a mortality rate of up to 10%.
This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory after a monkeypox case was reported in Massachusetts. That followed the discovery of monkeypox cases in Europe which, until recently, did not have monkeypox.
Scientists don’t know what is causing the most recent outbreak. There is concern that a recent mutation may have rendered the virus more transmissible — similar to what we have seen with COVID-19. But there’s only speculation at this point.
The United States already has a vaccine for monkeypox. JYNNEOS has been approved by the U.S. government to prevent monkeypox. The regular vaccine for smallpox is also effective, but it wears off after several years. So far, the U.S. has not announced plans for a mass vaccination campaign, but the government has stockpiles in the event of a major outbreak.