(Update: Adding video, comments by Deschutes County health officials)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — As King County, Washington officials investigate a presumptive case of the monkeypox virus in Seattle, Deschutes County officials are beginning to prepare for the virus’s potential arrival in Central Oregon.
Deschutes County Health Services spokesman Erik Breon told NewsChannel 21 on Tuesday, “Deschutes County is working on a plan, building off our COVID-19 infrastructure.”
Typically, the monkeypox virus is only found in Africa, but a new global outbreak has seen nearly 100 cases reported in North America, Europe, Israel and Australia, including the one in Seattle this weekend.
The case, reported to Public Health – Seattle & King County on Sunday, is an adult male who recently traveled internationally to a country that reported monkeypox cases recently.
That’s has Deschutes County Assistant Health Officer, Dr. Richard Fawcett concerned and looking to learn more.
“(The virus being discovered in Seattle) raises some increased concern, in part because our local population in Deschutes County, especially during the summer months, tends to travel a little bit more than, say, a few other counties in Oregon,” Fawcett said. “It’s not exactly clear where the virus was first contracted.”
Unlike COVID-19, Fawcett said, monkeypox does not primarily spread through respiratory droplets.
“Most of the cases that I’ve read about in Europe and in the U.S. have been probably acquired sexually,” Fawcett said. “Physical contact seems to be the most common method of transmission.”
Monkeypox is a virus first discovered in 1958 and originates in wild animals like rodents and primates, and occasionally jumps to people. Most human cases have been in central and west Africa, where the disease is endemic. It comes from the same virus family as smallpox, but tends to cause less severe symptoms.
Typical symptoms include fever, body aches, chills and fatigue, but more serious illness can include lesions developing on the hands and face.
There are vaccines for people who may have been exposed to the virus, and it does not appear to be as transmissible as COVID-19. But this appears to be the first time monkeypox is spreading among people who did not travel to Africa.
There have been about 100 cases reported recently in Europe, North America, Israel and Australia.
Health officials stress that the risk of contracting monkeypox is still low for the general public. The course of the disease runs for 2-4 weeks and is cured without any treatment.
However Fawcett is still urging caution for the disease, which can be deadly in one out of 10 people.
“If you develop a flu-like illness who has a rash of any kind, you really just need to be evaluated,” he said.