Health department confirms first case of monkeypox in Douglas County

photo by: Kevin Anderson/Journal-World File Photo

The Lawrence-Douglas County health department's home at the Community Health Facility, 200 Maine St., is pictured in this file photo from July 2010.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has confirmed the first case of monkeypox in Douglas County, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health announced Tuesday.

According to a news release from the county health department, the infected person was tested through KDHE’s laboratory, and the person and their close contacts have been treated with a vaccine shown to be effective against monkeypox. According to the health department, the vaccine is limited in supply right now, and it’s important for residents to be aware of monkeypox symptoms and take steps to avoid exposure.

The release said typical symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion, followed by the appearance of a rash that can look like pimples or blisters. The rash may appear on the face, inside the mouth and on other parts of the body such as the hands, feet, chest or genitals. Over a week or two, the rash changes from small, flat spots to tiny blisters similar to chickenpox, and then to larger blisters. These can take several weeks to scab over and fall off.

Monkeypox spreads primarily through direct contact with infectious lesions, scabs and bodily fluids or by respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact. The virus can also spread through direct contact with materials that have touched bodily fluids or lesions, such as clothing or linens. Individuals are considered infectious from the onset of their symptoms until their lesions have crusted, the crusts have separated and a fresh layer of healthy skin has formed underneath.

The incubation period for monkeypox is usually seven to 14 days, but it can be as little as five days or as much as 21 days. Not all cases will show symptoms before the onset of a rash, so KDHE recommends that anyone experiencing symptoms of a monkeypox-like rash with other risk factors contact their health care provider as soon as possible. Risk factors for infection include the following scenarios within 21 days of onset of the first symptoms:

• Contact with a person or people with a similar-appearing rash who received a confirmed or probable monkeypox diagnosis.

• Close in-person contact with individuals in a social network experiencing monkeypox, including meeting partners through an online website, app or social event.

• Recent travel outside the U.S. to a country with confirmed cases of monkeypox or where monkeypox is endemic.

• Contact with a live or dead wild animal or exotic pet that is an African endemic species, or using a product derived from such animals like game meat, creams, lotions or powders.

Douglas County’s case is the third in the state of Kansas; Shawnee and Johnson counties have each reported one case of the disease.

If residents of Douglas County have been exposed to monkeypox or are exhibiting clear symptoms of the disease, they should call the health department’s clinic at 785-843-0721 to arrange testing.

For more information about monkeypox, visit the KDHE’s website. The KDHE Phone Bank is also available to assist in answering general questions at 1-866-534-3463 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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