First case of Montana monkey pox confirmed in Flathead County

HELENA – State health officials report that the monkey pox virus has reached Montana.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and the Flathead City Department of Health today confirmed one suspected case of monkey pox in an adult from Flathead County.

Initial testing was completed on Friday at the Montana State Public Health Laboratory, and confirmation testing will then be conducted at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in accordance with DPHHS.

DPHHS officials said in a press release that the department “works closely with local public health and the patient’s health care provider to identify people who may have been in contact with the patient while they were infected.”

The patient did not require hospitalization and is currently in isolation at home. To protect patient confidentiality, no further patient details will be disclosed.

As of August 4, 2022, CDC reports 7,102 cases of monkey pox / 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 normally reported.

Symptoms of monkey pox can include fever, headache, aching muscles and back, swollen glands, chills, exhaustion, and a rash that may look like pimples or blisters on the face, mouth and other parts of the body.

The illness usually lasts for two to four weeks, and most people recover on their own without treatment. Occasionally, monkey pox can cause scarring from wounds, the development of secondary infections such as pneumonia, or other complications.

The virus does not spread easily between people who come into accidental contact, but transmission can occur through contact with infectious wounds and body fluids; contaminated items such as clothing or bedding; or by respiratory droplets associated with prolonged face-to-face contact.

“Early diagnosis of the characteristic monkey pox rash by patients and clinicians is imperative to minimize transmission of the virus,” said Dr. Maggie Cook-Shimanek, DPHHS acting national physician. “Anyone who has symptoms of monkey pox should isolate themselves and consult a doctor immediately.”

Since the transmission of monkey pox requires close and prolonged contact, compact social networks have been particularly hard hit.

There is no treatment specifically for monkey pox. But because both the monkey pox and pox viruses are closely related, antiviral drugs (such as tecovirimat) and vaccines designed to protect against smallpox can be used to prevent and treat monkey pox infection. The need for treatment will depend on how someone gets sick or whether there is a likelihood of a severe illness.

DPHHS is pre-positioning the tecovirimat delivery in serviceable condition if necessary, the press release states. The CDC does not currently recommend universal vaccination against monkey pox. However, vaccination may be recommended for some people who have been exposed to the monkey pox virus.

According to the CDC, the monkey pox virus is spread mainly through close, close contact with someone who has monkey pox.

Montanans can take steps to prevent infection with monkey pox. Anyone with a rash that looks like monkey pox should speak to their doctor, even if they don’t think they’ve had contact with someone who has monkey pox.

A person with monkey pox should isolate themselves 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 website at https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/. DPHHS also launched a new website called monkeypox at monkeypox (mt.gov).

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