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First Virginia case of monkeypox reported, health department says

The CDC confirmed that the woman has tested positive for the virus.

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Department of Health announced Thursday that a Commonwealth resident who traveled internationally recently has tested positive for monkeypox.

VDH said in a statement that the woman, who resides in Northern Virginia, initially received the positive test results from the Virginia Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services. She was then tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which confirmed the results were positive on Friday.

According to health officials, the Northern Virginia woman recently traveled to a country in Africa “where the disease is known to occur.” VDH says the woman “was not infectious during travel.” She is currently isolated at her home and VDH says she was not hospitalized.

Virginia State Health Commissioner Dr. Colin Greene called the disease “rare” in a statement and said the woman’s diagnosis “does not pose a risk to the public.”

"There's no kind of public health risk from this particular person, contact tracing is underway and so you know, we've kind of jumped in there and interrupted this particular chain of transmission," Dr. Brandy Darby, a veterinary epidemiologist with VDH, said in an interview with WUSA9 .

Darby said there is a possibility there could be continued spread in other areas in the coming days and weeks, but reiterated monkeypox is a rare illness.

"I think everyone's a little on edge after COVID. We certainly have some things that are working for us in our favor. And that is that monkeypox generally, you know, going from person to person just isn't as transmissible as COVID-19, you really do need to be in quite close contact with an infected person for that transmission to occur," Darby said.

The CDC says a U.S. resident first tested positive for monkeypox after returning from Canada on May 18. The agency has been tracking “clusters of monkeypox that have been reported in early- to mid-May in several countries that don’t normally report monkeypox, including in Europe and North America.”

According to the Washington Post, the CDC told reporters Thursday that nine cases of monkeypox have been reported in seven states.

Greene said that health officials in Virginia are continuing to monitor national and international trends and have urged medical providers to report cases of monkeypox to jurisdiction leaders as quickly as possible.

VDH says that monkeypox can potentially lead to serious illness and that “person-to-person” occurs when there is “prolonged close contact or with direct contact with body fluids or contact with contaminated materials such as clothing or linens.”

Symptoms of the illness include headache, fever, muscle aches, lymph node swelling and exhaustion. After a couple of days with the virus, health officials say a rash will appear on the face and spread to other parts of the body.

The symptoms may start to appear around seven to 14 days of being exposed but they clear up within two to four weeks for most people, according to VDH. Severe illness can lead to death.

VHD says the following individuals should especially seek medical care if they experience symptoms that are contagious with the virus: people who “traveled to central or west African countries, parts of Europe where monkeypox cases have been reported, or other areas with confirmed cases of monkeypox during the month before their symptoms began”; people in close contact with a person who tested positive for monkeypox; and men that date other men. 

“The cases we’ve seen so far have been adults but they’ve been adults of a wide range of ages so early anyone regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation could be at risk of monkeypox, but we do think that risk is low for the general public,” Darby said.

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