Montana’s first case of monkey pox confirmed in Flathead County

HELENA – State health officials report that monkeypox virus has arrived in Montana.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and Flathead City-County Health Department today confirmed a single suspected case of monkeypox virus infection in an adult in Flathead County.

The first tests were completed Friday at the Montana State Public Health Laboratory, and confirmatory testing will then take place with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to DPHHS.

DPHHS officials state in a press release that the department is “working closely with local public health and the patient’s health care provider to identify individuals who may have been in contact with the patient while they were infectious.”

The patient did not require hospitalization and is now in isolation at home. To protect patient confidentiality, no further details about the patient will be disclosed.

As of August 4, 2022, CDC reported 7,102 cases of monkeypox/orthopox virus in 48 other US states. In recent months, more than 26,519 cases have been reported in 81 countries where the disease is typically unreported.

Symptoms of monkey pox may include fever, headache, muscle and back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, and a rash that may look like pimples or blisters that appear on the face, mouth, and other parts of the body.

The illness usually lasts two to four weeks and most people get better on their own without treatment. Sometimes monkey pox can cause scarring of the ulcers, the development of secondary infections, such as pneumonia, or other complications.

The virus does not spread easily between people with casual contact, but transmission can occur through contact with infectious sores and body fluids; contaminated items, such as clothing or bedding; or via respiratory drops associated with prolonged face-to-face contact.

“Early recognition of the characteristic monkeypox rash by patients and clinicians is necessary to minimize transmission of this virus,” said Dr. Maggie Cook-Shimanek, Acting Medical Officer of the DPHHS. “Anyone with monkey pox symptoms should isolate themselves from others and see a health care provider immediately.”

Because the transmission of monkeypox requires close and prolonged contact, close-knit social networks are especially affected.

There is no treatment specifically for monkey pox. But because monkeypox and smallpox viruses are closely related, antiviral drugs (such as tecovirimat) and vaccines designed to protect against smallpox can be used to prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections. The need for treatment depends on how sick a person becomes or whether he or she will become seriously ill.

DPHHS is placing a supply of tecovirimat in the state for use as needed, the press release said. CDC does not recommend widespread vaccination against monkeypox at this time. However, vaccination may be recommended for some people who have been exposed to the monkeypox virus.

According to the CDC, the monkeypox virus spreads primarily through close, intimate contact with someone who has monkeypox.

Montanans can take steps to prevent them from getting monkey pox. Anyone with a rash that looks like monkey pox should talk to their healthcare provider, even if they don’t think they have had contact with someone who has monkey pox.

A person who is sick with monkey pox should isolate themselves at home. If they have an active rash or other symptoms, they should be in a separate room or area from other family members and pets if possible.

For more information about this virus, visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/. DPHHS has also launched a new monkeypox website at monkeypox (mt.gov).

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