Polk County’s first confirmed case of monkeypox was reported by county health officials Monday, marking the second reported case in Iowa.
The patient, who was not identified, likely caught the infection while traveling within the United States, officials from the Polk County Health Department said in a statement. The person is isolated, receiving outpatient care and in touch with health department staff.
Iowa’s first probable case of monkeypox was reported July 2 in an adult from the north-central part of the state, the Iowa Department of Public Health announced. The patient was likely infected during international travel, and health officials said the risk to the general public is low.
Polk County Health Department Director Helen Eddy echoed similar statements in Monday’s announcement, but added, “it is important for the community to be aware of this virus including transmission, prevention, and when it’s appropriate to seek medical care.”
There have been 767 monkeypox cases reported in the United States as of Friday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New York is the state that has reported the highest number of cases, followed by California, with 153 and 136, respectively.
Iowa neighbors including Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota also have reported cases.
How is the monkeypox virus transmitted?
Monkeypox is a viral infection that can spread through skin-to-skin contact, body fluids, monkeypox sores, or shared items, such as clothing and bedding, that have been contaminated with fluids or sores of a person with monkeypox, the release said.
It can also spread through respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex, according to the CDC. While not generally a sexually transmitted infection, it can be transmitted during intimate contact and sex by skin-to-skin and another intimate contact, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, the Polk County news release said.
Health department officials say they’re working with the Iowa Department of Human Services to conduct contact tracing to identify anyone who may be at risk due to direct close contact with the patient while infectious.
“The emergence of monkeypox in the United States serves as a reminder to stay up to date on regular STI testing based on your sexual behavior, partners and if you have symptoms,” Eddy said. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides recommendations on healthy sexual practices.”
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
People with monkeypox sometimes develop a flu-like illness with fever, fatigue, and enlarged lymph nodes followed by a rash. In other instances, people can develop a rash with or without swollen lymph nodes, which can occur on the genitals or around the anus, or both.
People usually develop monkeypox for 7 to 14 days — and up to 21 days — after being exposed. Monkeypox is fatal for up to 1 in 10 people, the World Health Organization says.
Those in close contact should keep an eye on symptoms of illness.
There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox infections, but smallpox viruses are genetically similar, meaning smallpox vaccines could be used to prevent monkeypox infections, according to USA TODAY.
The Jynneos vaccine is one of those vaccines, and it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2019 for monkeypox prevention in people ages 18 and older. It requires two doses, taken four weeks apart.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will release 56,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine immediately in areas where monkeypox transmission rates are high, followed by an additional 240,000 doses in the coming weeks, USA TODAY reported.
The vaccines will be distributed through a tier system, prioritizing areas with a high number of confirmed cases.
The state has received a limited amount of vaccines to protect lab staff, and it will continue to receive the vaccine for exposed and infected individuals, the state health department said.
Health department officials encourage the following individuals to call and seek guidance from their medical provider: