The Bulletin

Virginia’s first presumed monkeypox case detected, health officials say

By: - May 26, 2022 2:09 pm

In this 1971 Center For Disease Control handout photo, monkeypox-like lesions are shown on the arm and leg of a child in Bondua, Liberia. (Photo Courtesy of the CDC/Getty Images)

Virginia health officials announced they have detected the state’s first presumed case of monkeypox in Northern Virginia woman who recently traveled to an African country where the disease is known to occur. 

In a Thursday news release, State Health Commissioner Dr. Colin Greene said the patient “is currently isolating and does not pose a risk to the public.” 

“Transmission requires close contact with someone with symptomatic monkeypox, and this virus has not shown the ability to spread rapidly in the general population. … Based on the limited information currently available about the evolving multi-country outbreak, the risk to the public appears to be very low,” he said. 

The Virginia Department of Health is awaiting confirmation of the state’s test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the Washington Post, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky included the Virginia case as one of nine U.S. cases of the virus detected in seven states to date during a press call Thursday morning. 

VDH said Thursday afternoon that the Virginia patient did not require hospitalization and the health department is monitoring her close contacts. 

A potentially severe flu-like illness that causes swollen lymph nodes and a rash on the face and the body, monkeypox was first confirmed in the U.S. this year when a Massachusetts resident who had recently traveled to Canada tested positive for the virus May 18. 

On May 20, Greene urged Virginia medical professionals to report any suspected cases to their local health department. 

While monkeypox cases were detected in Texas and Maryland in 2021, the last significant outbreak of the disease in the U.S. was in 2003, when 47 people in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin were sickened after having contact with pet prairie dogs that had been housed near infected animals imported from Ghana. 

VDH said the virus can be transmitted not only by close contact with an infected person but through “direct contact with body fluids or contact with contaminated materials such as clothing or linen.” 

The department urged people who are sick or have symptoms consistent with monkeypox to seek medical care, particularly if they have recently traveled to central or west African countries or areas where cases have been confirmed, been in close contact with with someone with monkeypox or are men “who regularly have close or intimate contact with other men.”

Monkeypox symptoms often resolve on their own, according to the World Health Organization, though there are treatments and antiviral medication available for severe cases.

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Sarah Vogelsong
Sarah Vogelsong

Sarah is the Mercury's environment and energy reporter, covering everything from utility regulation to sea level rise. Originally from McLean, she has spent over a decade in journalism and academic publishing and previously worked as a staff reporter for Chesapeake Bay Journal, the Progress-Index and the Caroline Progress. She is the recipient of a first place award for explanatory reporting from the Society of Environmental Journalists and has twice been honored by the Virginia Press Association as "Best in Show" for online writing. She was chosen for the 2020 cohort of the Columbia Energy Journalism Initiative and is a graduate of the College of William and Mary. Contact her at [email protected]