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First probable monkeypox case in St. Louis under investigation

The person likely contracted the virus during recent out-of-state travel, the health department said. It is waiting for the CDC to confirm the case.

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Health Department reported the city's first probable case of monkeypox on Tuesday. 

The health department said in a news release that it is awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It said the individual likely contracted the virus during recent travel outside of Missouri.

The person has had minimal contact with the public, and any potential close contacts were notified, the department said.

“Through this individual’s cooperation with the Department of Health, we believe their minimal contact with other individuals will help contain the spread of this virus within our community,” said St. Louis Health Director Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis. “At the same time, it is important that if anyone develops symptoms of monkeypox, they should contact their medical provider immediately and avoid direct contact with others.”

The monkeypox virus belongs to the same family of viruses as smallpox, the department said. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms but milder. Monkeypox is rarely fatal.

“I’m not surprised to hear about the city’s first probable case,” said Dr. Farrin Manian, Chief of the Department of Medicine at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis.

The health department released a list of symptoms that can be experienced with monkeypox:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appear on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus. 
    • The rash goes through different stages before healing completely. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks. Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.

The virus can spread from the start of symptoms until the rash has fully healed with a fresh layer of skin formed, with the illness typically lasting 2-4 weeks, the department said.

It can spread through person-to-person contact, including the following:

  • Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids 
  • Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex
  • Touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids
  • Pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta  

“COVID is much more transmissible than monkeypox," Dr. Manian said. "Monkeypox is really transmitted mostly through close contact. Direct contact with someone who is infected. First thing is to make sure that the person who is infected is not putting other people at risk, so they need to be essentially in isolation until the rash scabs over and heals. That may take two to three weeks or longer.”

The CDC has previously identified three monkeypox cases in Missouri, none of which were in the City of St. Louis.

"I don't want the public to get into a state of panic around anybody with a rash, heat rash, an alergic rash is not the same," Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis said. "So we're very clear about the criteria for which they need to contact us and we're in close contact with them. Some people get a rash first before going through other symptoms. Sometimes not at all. For some they only experience a rash."

Last month, the World Health Organization declined to declare monkeypox a global health emergency, but said it would revisit its decision soon. It said its evaluation of the outbreak could change if there are cases among sex workers, if the virus continues to spread rapidly or if more severe disease is seen.

RELATED: WHO panel: Monkeypox not a global emergency 'at this stage'

In central and west Africa, where the disease has been endemic for decades, the disease mostly affects people who come into contact with infected wild animals, like rodents or primates. There have been about 1,500 reported cases of monkeypox, including 70 deaths, in Congo, Cameroon and the Central African Republic.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 9,600 cases of monkeypox worldwide in nearly 60 countries, most of which had not previously reported the disease.

The CDC's website provides more information on the virus.


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