The first confirmed monkeypox case in the central San Joaquin Valley has been reported in Tulare County.
“The (person) is in isolation, recovering at home,” Tulare County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Haught said Thursday in a news release. “We are actively investigating the circumstances surrounding this case, identifying close contacts, and notifying them of their potential exposure.”
The confirmation of monkeypox in the Valley comes as the rare disease is on the rise in California and throughout the United States.
According to California public health officials, there are about 250 confirmed or probable cases in the state. Most of the roughly 1,000 cases reported in the U.S. have been among men who have sex with men, but health officials stress that anyone can get the disease.
Though the risk of monkeypox in the general population remains low, federal health officials are scrambling to get more of the two-dose vaccine to thousands of people in New York City, California, and other large population centers.
The CDC recommends the vaccine for people who have been exposed to the virus and their presumed contacts.
The U.S. government already has shipped 132,000 doses to health departments, including more than 21,000 to New York City and 44,000 to California. The CDC estimates that about 1.5 million American men are eligible for the vaccine based on their HIV status and other risk factors.
Thus far, there hasn’t been a reported death from monkeypox in California.
How Monkeypox Spreads
Monkeypox spreads through direct, close contact with an infected person. The virus enters the body through broken skin (even if not visible), the respiratory tract, or mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth) after skin or sexual contact, from bodily fluids, or contact with contaminated clothing or linens.
Monkeypox symptoms may include flu-like symptoms, a rash on the face, extremities, or genital area that may look like pimples or blisters, fever, swollen lymph nodes, general body aches, or fatigue. People with a monkeypox infection may experience all or some of the symptoms. Most people with monkeypox will develop a rash.
“It is vital that persons who have symptoms or suspect they have monkeypox contact their healthcare provider right away,” said Haught. “There are many other causes of rashes, but it is always important to let your provider know you have a rash when scheduling an appointment.”
There are steps residents can take to reduce the spread of monkeypox and protect themselves from infection:
• Practice good hand hygiene often, with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub
• Wear a well-fitted face mask when around others
• Talk with any new partners about their health before close or intimate contact
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick and their bedding, clothing, or other materials
• Stay home and call your provider if you are sick with any symptoms or have a new rash
• Stay aware if traveling to countries or large events where there are current outbreaks of monkeypox
(Associated Press contributed to this article.)