Montana’s first monkeypox case confirmed in Flathead County

HELENA – State health officials are reporting that the monkeypox virus has arrived in Montana.

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

Initial testing was completed Friday at the Montana State Public Health Laboratory and confirmatory testing will occur next with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to DPHHS.

DPHHS officials say in a press release that the department is “working closely with local public health and the patient’s healthcare provider to identify individuals who may have come into contact with the patient while he was contagious”.

The patient did not require hospitalization and is now in home isolation. To protect patient confidentiality, no other details related to the patient will be disclosed.

As of August 4, 2022, the CDC reported 7,102 cases of monkeypox/orthopoxvirus in 48 other US states. In recent months, more than 26,519 cases have been reported in 81 countries where the disease is not usually reported.

Symptoms of monkeypox can 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, inside the mouth and on other parts of the body.

The illness usually lasts two to four weeks and most people recover on their own without treatment. Sometimes monkeypox can cause wound scarring, 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 wounds and bodily fluids; contaminated items, such as clothing or bedding; or by respiratory droplets associated with prolonged face-to-face contact.

“Early recognition of the signature monkeypox rash by patients and clinicians is necessary to minimize transmission of this virus,” said DPHHS acting state medical officer Dr. Maggie Cook-Shimanek. “Anyone showing symptoms of monkeypox should self-isolate from others and seek immediate medical attention.”

Because transmission of monkeypox requires close and prolonged contact, close-knit social networks have been particularly affected.

There is no specific treatment for monkeypox. But because monkeypox and smallpox viruses are closely related, antiviral drugs (such as tecovirimat) and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox can be used to prevent and treat monkeypox virus infections. The need for treatment will depend on how sick a person is or if they are likely to become seriously ill.

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

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

Montana residents can take steps to avoid getting monkeypox. Anyone with a rash that looks like monkeypox should tell their healthcare provider, even if they don’t think they’ve been in contact with someone who has monkeypox.

A person with monkeypox should self-isolate 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.

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

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