PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia Health Department officials have identified the state’s first likely case of monkeypox. We still don’t know how the person was exposed or if they infected anyone else.
“Given how well connected our world is, no one is really isolated,” said the health department’s acute communicable disease program manager, Dana Perella.
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While it’s still not known how the Philadelphia resident contracted the virus, experts say the threat is “extremely low” and monkeypox is much less contagious than COVID-19.
“I don’t think it’s something we should panic about. It does not spread in the same way that COVID spreads. For example, it’s not easy to get this as it is to contract COVID,” said ChristianaCare Chief Infection Prevention Officer Dr. Marci Drees.
Drees says the virus spreads through close contact, including transmission through the skin or respiratory tract, and will most likely be diagnosed when a rash breaks out several days after exposure.
Other symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, and a rash that develops one to three days after exposure.
“The rash can appear on different parts of the body. It is usually more common on the face and extremities than on the central part of the body. What has been a distinguishing feature of this outbreak is that it is sometimes isolated in the genital area,” Drees said.
Drees also says that if you get the rash, it’s important to contact your doctor, cover it up immediately, and isolate it.
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“It can also be spread through materials, so if you’re handling the bedding or towels of someone with monkeypox lesions, you can catch it that way,” Drees said.
Monkeypox was accidentally imported into the United States in 2003 – transferred from rodents shipped from Africa to prairie dogs.
It has spread from animals to humans in the past, but officials have been unable to trace this outbreak, which was first identified in a UK patient last month.
“It’s obviously spreading in a different way than before,” Drees said.
Monkeypox has been confirmed in 29 countries. The CDC says there are at least 19 cases in 10 states. Only one known death from monkeypox has been reported worldwide.
Monkeypox is similar to the smallpox virus and the smallpox vaccine can be used to help treat patients at risk with monkeypox.
Officials say the best way to stay safe is to use social distancing, masking and proper hand washing.
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Ross DiMattei of CBS3 contributed to this report.