The first probable case of monkeypox was detected in DuPage County, health officials announced Friday, making it the third reported case in Illinois.
The case was found in a man who in the past month traveled internationally to a country that also recently reported monkeypox infections, the DuPage County Health Department said.
Initial testing was completed with the Illinois Department of Public Health and is now in progress with confirmatory testing at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Based on initial epidemiological characteristics and the positive orthopoxvirus result at IDPH, public health authorities consider this to be a probable monkeypox infection,” DCHD said in a statement.
Health officials said the case remains isolated and there was no indication of a major risk of spread “as monkeypox does not spread as easily as the COVID-19 virus”.
The latest case comes amid a string of cases reported in the U.S. and several other countries, health officials said Thursday.
Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness that often begins with flu-like symptoms and swelling of the lymph nodes and progresses to a rash on the face and body, health experts said. It was first observed in Africa in 1970 and is usually found in the western and central parts of the continent.
The CDC is on high alert after cases of the virus were reported in several countries that don’t normally report cases of monkeypox, including the United States
As of Friday, the CDC has reported 49 confirmed cases in multiple states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
“Usually in a normal year we’re going to see a few cases, mostly in West Africa, that are animal-related,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Health. “There are animals that can carry it, and we’re going to see a couple dozen cases where people can get infected just from contact with animals. The reason more attention has been paid is because at this point there have been somewhere in between 100 identified cases that are not related to the typical way we view monkeypox.
The virus comes from the same family as smallpox, and the World Health Organization has also urged people to be vigilant after nearly 200 confirmed or suspected cases were reported in at least 12 western countries. According to official figures, most of these cases have occurred in Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.
“What makes this a little different is the number of cases and the countries affected,” said Dr. Irfan Hafiz of Northwestern Medicine’s McHenry and Huntley Hospitals.
The CDC said that “cases include people who self-identify as men who have had sex with men,” but stressed that anyone can contract the disease through prolonged contact.
We have already approved vaccines and treatments for monkeypox
Hafiz, an infectious disease specialist, said the virus causes symptoms similar to several diseases, including chickenpox or smallpox.
“To the layman, it can look like chickenpox or warts,” he said. “But these (wounds) tend to be in exposed places.”
Health experts also said the disease can be confused with a sexually transmitted infection such as syphilis or herpes, or with the varicella-zoster virus.
Federal health officials are urging physicians in the US to “consider a diagnosis of monkeypox in people who present with a persistent rash, particularly if they meet any of the following criteria:
- have been in contact with someone who has had a rash that looks like monkeypox, or who has been diagnosed with confirmed or probable monkeypox
- Had skin-to-skin contact with someone on a social networking site who witnessed monkeypox activity; This includes men who have sex with men who meet partners through an online website, digital application (app), or social event (such as a bar or party).
- Traveling outside the United States to a country with confirmed cases of monkeypox or where monkeypox is active
- Have had contact with, or used a product derived from, a dead or live wild animal or exotic pet unique to Africa (e.g. game meat, creams, lotions, powders, etc.).
The virus is rarely fatal, with symptoms ranging from fever, pain, and rashes all over the body.
“Suspected cases can present with early flu-like symptoms and progress to lesions that can start in one part of the body and spread to other parts,” the Chicago Department of Public Health said.
According to the CDPH, human-to-human transmission is possible through “close physical contact with monkeypox wounds, objects that have been contaminated with liquids or wounds (clothing, bedding, etc.), or through respiratory droplets after prolonged face-to-face contact. “
“It’s not just your casual handshake,” Hafiz said. “(Contact must be) longer, more pronounced. It’s not technically a sexually transmitted disease, but it involves close contact.”
“It takes longer (contact), not minutes,” added Dr. Kavita Patel, Medical Associate at NBC News. “(It may also involve) bodily fluids or lesions.”
Infections typically last between two and four weeks, CDPH said.
Health officials said anyone with a “new or unexplained rash, sores, or symptoms, or confirmed exposure” should see their doctor and “avoid sex or intimacy with anyone until they’ve been seen.”