PHILADELPHIA–The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has identified a Philadelphia resident who is a probable monkeypox case based on preliminary testing at the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Bureau of Laboratories. Confirmatory monkeypox testing at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is pending. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health is working with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and CDC to investigate how this person was exposed and if they may have exposed anyone else since they became infectious.
“The threat to Philadelphians from monkeypox is extremely low,” said Health Department Acute Communicable Disease Program Manager Dana Perella. “Monkeypox is much less contagious than COVID-19 and is containable particularly when prompt care is sought for symptoms. Vaccine to prevent or lessen the severity of illness is available through the CDC for high-risk contacts of persons infected with monkeypox, as is antiviral treatment for patients with monkeypox. I believe that residents and visitors should feel safe to do all the fun things Philadelphia has to offer, with the proper precautions.”
To protect the resident’s privacy, the Health Department will not be confirming any information about them. They are currently working with the Health Department to identify any contacts that may have been exposed. Health Department staff will contact those people directly.
The current outbreak was first confirmed in a British resident on May 6, 2022. Since then, cases have been confirmed in 29 other non-endemic countries, including the United States. The CDC reports that there are 19 confirmed cases in ten states. Worldwide, there has only been one death associated with this outbreak.
The Health Department strongly recommends that anyone who is experiencing symptoms of an unexplained rash on their face, palms, arms, legs, genitals, or perianal region that may be accompanied by flu-like illness should contact their regular healthcare provider as soon as possible. People who are feeling ill should stay home. And of course, remember that persons who only have flu-like symptoms without rash should get tested for COVID-19. Ill persons should wear a mask when seeking care or if they are not able to isolate from others.
Monkeypox is spread through close, personal contact. Initial symptoms usually include fever, fatigue, headache, and enlarged lymph nodes. A rash often starts on the face and then appears on the palms, arms, legs, and other parts of the body. Some recent cases began with a rash on the genitals or perianal region only with no other initial symptoms. Over a week or two, the rash changes from small, flat spots to tiny blisters that are similar to chicken pox, and then to larger blisters. These can take several weeks to scab over. Once the scabs fall off, the person is no longer contagious.
Monkeypox is a viral disease that is usually found in Central and West Africa. Monkeypox was first discovered in laboratory monkeys in 1958. Blood tests of animals in Africa later found evidence of Monkeypox infection in several African rodents. In 1970, Monkeypox was reported in humans for the first time. In June 2003, it was inadvertently imported into the United States in a shipment of exotic African rodents, resulting in transfer of the virus to American prairie dogs with subsequent transmission to humans.
For more information on monkeypox, see the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s newly updated fact sheet: https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/Documents/Diseases%20and%20Conditions/Monkeypox.pdf.