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Presumptive monkeypox case detected in Montana

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The state of Montana recorded its first presumptive case of the monkeypox virus, officials said Friday.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services and the Flathead City-County Health Department said a single presumptive case of the virus was found in an adult in Flathead County.

Initial testing was completed Friday at the Montana State Public Health Laboratory. Confirmation testing will occur next week with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The patient did not require hospitalization and is isolating at home, state officials said.

A press release said the state would not release more information about the patient. The release also did not say when the patient first presented symptoms or a sample was first collected for testing. 

County health officials are performing contact tracing to identify individuals who may have come in contact with the patient, DPHHS said.

“Early recognition of the characteristic monkeypox rash by patients and clinicians is necessary to minimize transmission of this virus,” said the acting State Medical Officer Dr. Maggie Cook-Shimanek in the press release. “Anyone with symptoms of monkeypox should isolate from others and immediately consult a health care provider.”

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus, according to the CDC.

It is part of the virus family that includes smallpox and has similar, but more mild symptoms, and is rarely fatal. It is not related to chickenpox.

Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a rash. The rash can look like pimples or blisters and appear on the face, in the mouth or on hands, feet, the chest, genitals or anus.

The rash goes through different stages before healing and illness lasts two to four weeks.

Monkeypox can spread through direct contact with the rash, scabs or body fluids. It can also spread through respiratory secretions during prolonged close contact, or during intimate physical contact.

People can get monkeypox from a scratch or bite from an infected animal, and also be passed to a fetus.

Monkeypox first appeared in humans in 1970. Before this outbreak, it was mostly found in central and western African countries and most cases elsewhere were among people who had traveled in that region or came into contact with imported animals.

In Montana, the state health department's Public Health Laboratory can provide PCR testing for monkeypox if a health care provider requests it.

As of Aug. 4, 2022, CDC reports 7,102 cases of monkeypox/orthopoxvirus in 48 other U.S. states. In recent months, more than 26,519 cases have been reported in 81 countries where the disease is not typically reported.

While monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, the virus spreads through close contact and the majority of cases nationwide so far have been among men who have sex with other men.

In allocating doses of vaccine around the country, the federal government has used a formula to determine what quantities states get. Allocation is based 25% on case burden and 75% on the at-risk population in a state or jurisdiction.

As of Monday, the CDC had allocated Montana 750 doses of JYNNEOS vaccine, but only 40% of that is available to order. A spokesperson for the state health department said Montana has ordered every dose it's able to and prepositioned the vaccine in locations around the state for administration following CDC guidelines.

"The state plans to work though established clinical partners who serve populations at highest risk for monkeypox disease, providing educational resources and information on testing, vaccine, and treatment availability," the spokesperson said.

The state health department has also launched a new monkeypox website at https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/monkeypox.

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