CDC confirms 2 cases in Salt Lake County

Two adults in the same Salt Lake County household were confirmed Wednesday to have recently contracted monkeypox.

Salt Lake County Health Department officials initially announced the two “probable” cases early Monday, based on preliminary testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have now confirmed the suspected diagnoses.

The two infected people earlier this month traveled to an area in Europe where “monkeypox cases are currently occurring” and became symptomatic afterwards, county health officials advised.

dr Angela Dunn, executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department, said Monday that the couple, who were believed to be infected at the time, went to a family doctor on Friday and were told to isolate themselves.

Within 24 hours, Dunn said, health officials knew the couple had a type of orthopoxvirus — the family of viruses that includes monkeypox and smallpox. So far they have been going through a mild illness and are expected to make a full recovery.

“Those infected remain isolated and pose no risk to the public,” officials said in a press release Wednesday.

Further information about the two people suffering from monkeypox was not released; County Health Department officials cited laws protecting the privacy of doctors.

What experts know about monkeypox

Monkeypox is a rare disease typically found in central and western Africa, but health officials have recently identified cases in Europe and North America.

In humans, monkeypox can cause flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes. People infected with monkeypox often develop a rash, usually first on the face before spreading to other parts of the body, which then turn into fluid-filled bumps called “smallpox,” Salt Lake County health officials have advised .

The “smallpox” lesions typically crust over before falling off. Infection can last anywhere from two to four weeks. People aren’t contagious until they show symptoms, Dunn said.

There is currently no proven, safe treatment for monkeypox. But limited available evidence suggests smallpox treatments could be beneficial, officials said.

Dunn said the county has a stockpile of smallpox vaccines and smallpox treatments that can be administered. Most people recover without treatment.

The cases, which have surfaced in Europe and North America, including the two in Salt Lake County, were found in people who had not recently visited Africa. That means there is “new, ongoing spread” between people outside of the continent where the disease is considered “endemic” or regularly occurring, Dunn said.

But she urged Utahns not to panic.

“This is not easily transmitted from person to person. We’re not talking about COVID here,” she said. “It’s really this direct contact with people who have monkeypox that’s how it’s spreading right now.”

exposure concerns

The Salt Lake County couple who contracted monkeypox do not pose a major risk to the public, officials said.

The rare disease is not known to spread easily among humans, and transmission does not generally occur through casual contact, Dunn said.

Instead, human-to-human transmission generally occurs through direct contact with bodily fluids, including monkeypox lesions, as well as semen and/or vaginal fluid.

That said, the virus can spread through sexual transmission, but it can also spread when someone comes into contact with such bodily fluids or other infectious materials on a person’s clothing or bedding.

Individuals can also get monkeypox through “prolonged, close personal contact”; Dunn clarified that “longer” contact is considered to be around three hours.

The infected couple’s close contacts were alerted by county health officials on Monday, and none have had “high-risk” contact with those diagnosed, meaning they are unlikely to have contracted the virus and have not been ordered to quarantine.

It usually takes around seven to 14 days for someone to shed a monkeypox infection to show symptoms, but that period can be anywhere from five to 21 days, officials advised.

Precautions to be taken during the trip

Dunn said Utahns should see a doctor if they’ve recently traveled to an area where monkeypox has been identified — or have been in close contact with someone who is symptomatic — and have since developed symptoms.

As of this week, monkeypox cases have been identified in “non-endemic” areas including England, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, France, Canada and Australia.

Utahns planning international travel should refer to the CDC’s current recommendations on monkeypox and other communicable diseases for their intended destinations, Salt Lake County health officials advised.

These recommendations include frequent, thorough hand washing; avoid contact with animals; and avoiding close contact with people who have obvious symptoms of monkeypox or other diseases.

Those with planned international travel should check that they are up to date on recommended vaccinations and aware of potential health risks at their intended destinations, officials advised.

You can make an appointment with the Salt Lake County Department of Health and Human Services Travel Clinic by calling 385-468-4111. Similar travel clinics exist in Davis and Utah counties.

For more information on monkeypox, visit CDC confirms 2 cases in Salt Lake County

Joel McCord

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