Health officials say that a Dallas resident has tested positive for monkeypox, a rare viral disease that shares some similarities with smallpox.
“While rare, this case is not a reason for alarm and we do not expect any threat to the general public,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says in a press release. “Dallas County Health and Human Services is working closely with local providers, as well as our state and federal partners.”
The person with monkeypox had recently traveled to Nigeria, where health officials believe he or she contracted the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating what happened there with Nigerian health officials, according to the Dallas County press release. The Dallas resident arrived back at Love Field on July 9. They are hospitalized and stable.
Health officials here have identified and gotten in touch with the patient’s close contacts. Because travelers on the flight over and at the airport were masked, Dallas County says the potential for spread was limited. This is the only case of monkeypox identified in Dallas County, according to the press release.
“We have been working closely with the CDC and DSHS and have conducted interviews with the patient and close contacts that were exposed,” says Dr. Philip Huang, the county’s top health official. “We have determined that there is very little risk to the general public. This is another demonstration of the importance of maintaining a strong public health infrastructure, as we are only a plane ride away from any global infectious disease.”
In other words, don’t panic. And if you do find yourself asking, “What the heck is monkeypox?” don’t worry. You’re not alone.
According to the CDC, the viral disease was first identified in 1958 among monkeys. The first human cases were reported in 1970. Most human cases of the illness have been reported exclusively in western and central Africa. There was a 2003 outbreak in the U.S., which was limited to 47 confirmed or probable cases in six states. This is the first case reported in Texas. (A case was also reported last month in the United Kingdom.)
Per the CDC:
The symptoms of Monkeypox include: fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion. Within 1 to 3 days (sometimes longer) after the appearance of fever, the patient develops a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body. The incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) for monkeypox is usually 7−14 days but can range from 5−21 days.
In some cases, it can be fatal. “In Africa, Monkeypox has been shown to cause death in as many as 1 in 10 persons who contract the disease,” according to a fact sheet distributed by the county. “However, the case reported in Dallas is of the less fatal strain.”
The disease can also not be spread by asymptomatic carriers, according to the press release.
This is far from Dallas’ first brush with rare viral diseases. There’s the whole COVID-19 thing we’ve been dealing with for the last year and change, of course. But this would seem to have more in common with the Ebola episode of 2014. Point is that by now, we should be prepared to respond to a case of monkeypox.