Officials report 2 suspected cases in Salt Lake County


Officials report 2 suspected cases in Salt Lake County

Two adults in the same Salt Lake County household are suspected of having monkeypox based on preliminary testing, Salt Lake County Health Department officials said Monday morning.

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.

“Both individuals are in isolation and pose no risk to the public,” officials said in a release. “They are suffering from a mild illness and are expected to make a full recovery.”

dr Angela Dunn, executive director of the Salt Lake County Health Department, said Monday that the couple suspected of being infected 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. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will test the samples to confirm a monkeypox diagnosis, Dunn said.

Further information on the two suspected infected people was not released early Monday; County Health Department officials cited laws protecting the privacy of doctors.

exposure concerns

According to county officials, Utah’s public health system “has not identified any risk of exposure to the public based on these probable cases.”

Any exposure concerns are instead limited to individuals who have been specifically identified as having had “direct, close contact” with the suspected infected couple during their time of infection, officials said in a statement.

According to the press release, county and state health officials are contacting those apparently close contacts and expect to reach everyone by Monday night.

During a press conference Monday morning, Dunn 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.”

What experts know about monkeypox

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

Those cases — along with the two suspected cases identified Monday in Salt Lake County — were found in people who had not recently visited Africa, which Dunn said means there is “new, ongoing spread” between people outside the continent on which the disease is found is considered “endemic” or is found regularly.

Last week, Salt Lake County health officials contacted area doctors about rising cases of monkeypox, Dunn said, so Utah doctors knew what to look for when the Salt Lake County couple walked in and were told to isolate themselves.

In humans, monkeypox can cause flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes, Salt Lake County health officials advised. 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.”

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.

President Joe Biden said Sunday the cases of monkeypox recently identified in Europe and North America are something “to worry about,” The Associated Press reported this weekend.

There were about 100 confirmed cases in “non-endemic countries” around the world as of Saturday, according to the World Health Organization. As of Monday, such cases have been identified in England, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, France, Canada and Australia.

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.

How monkeypox typically spreads

Monkeypox isn’t known to spread easily among humans, Dunn said, and transmission doesn’t generally occur through casual contact.

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 Monday that “longer” contact is considered to be around three hours.

Dunn said current international cases are spreading “particularly among the gay — or men who have sex with men (MSM) — community.” The county health department is working with community partners ahead of Utah Pride Week to educate attendees about risks and to protect themselves, though spread is not limited to gender or sexuality, and the CDC has said some cases have been reported in roommates or roommates became people sharing a household.

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.

However, there is currently no proven, safe treatment for monkeypox — limited available evidence suggests smallpox treatments might be useful, officials said.

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

If you are planning to travel internationally soon

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 planning to travel abroad 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

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