King County recorded its first presumptive monkeypox case, health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said during a press conference on May 23.
The case is an adult male who recently traveled to a country that has reported monkeypox cases, Duchin said. King County Public Health is working with the Washington State Department of Health to investigate the case and follow up with people who were potentially in contact with the positive case.
A Washington health lab test confirmed the case was positive for an orthopoxvirus, the family of viruses monkeypox belongs to. The Centers for Disease Control will run tests to confirm whether it is specifically monkeypox, Duchin said.
The man who is presumed to have monkeypox hasn’t required hospitalization and is recovering at home, Duchin said. Although there is no evidence to suggest monkeypox is spreading locally, Duchin said he would not be surprised if that were the case.
The illness can begin with flu-like symptoms followed by a rash on the face and body or with an isolated rash on the genital or groin area, Duchin said. Some people might develop the rash on their genitals without presenting any other symptoms, which can cause people to mistake it for a common sexually transmitted disease, Duchin said.
“People should understand that this disease can affect anyone, and those who are most at risk are those who have had close, physical contact with someone who has monkeypox,” Duchin said. “The risk is not limited to men who have sex with men. For that reason anyone who has symptoms of monkeypox or who has been in contact with someone who has monkeypox should be evaluated by a healthcare provider.”
Duchin said the rash is characterized by sores, bumps or fluid-filled bumps that look similar to a chickenpox rash, and people should consult a healthcare provider if they develop such a rash.
The illness is primarily spread through contact with the skin leisions or with the fluid from the rash. Duchin said this can include contact with the clothes or bedding of someone who has monkeypox.
It is also spread via respiratory droplets due to prolonged face-to-face contact with a person who has monkeypox.
Duchin said he does not expect the severity of this outbreak to come anywhere close to the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, as monkeypox is not as easily transmitted.