What you need to know about monkeypox, including symptoms, after Iowa confirms its second

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Health officials confirmed Polk County's first case of monkeypox Monday, marking the second reported case in Iowa.

The patient, who was not identified, likely caught the infection while traveling within the United States, officials from the Polk County Health Department said in a statement. The person is isolated, receiving outpatient care and in touch with health department staff.

Iowa's first probable case of monkeypox was reported July 2 in an adult from the north central part of the state, the Iowa Department of Public Health had announced. The patient was likely infected during international travel, and health officials said the risk to the general public is low.

County health department officials say they're working with the state to conduct contact tracing to identify anyone who may be at risk due to direct close contact with the patient while infectious.

More: Polk County's first monkeypox case is confirmed; health officials say risk to general public is low

Polk County Health Department Director Helen Eddy echoed similar statements in Monday's announcement, but added, "it is important for the community to be aware of this virus including transmission, prevention and when it’s appropriate to seek medical care.”

There have been 866 monkeypox cases reported in the United States as of Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New York is the state that has reported the highest number of cases, followed by California, with 156 and 148, respectively.

Iowa neighbors including Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota also have reported cases.

Here's what you need to know about the virus.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease in the same family of viruses as smallpox, according to the CDC. Symptoms are similar to smallpox, but milder. The disease is rarely fatal.

How is the monkeypox virus transmitted?

Monkeypox can spread through skin-to-skin contact, body fluids, monkeypox sores or shared items, such as clothing and bedding, that have been contaminated with fluids or sores of a person with monkeypox, according to the CDC.

It can also spread through respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling or sex, according to the CDC.

While not generally a sexually transmitted infection, it can be transmitted during intimate contact and sex by skin-to-skin and other intimate contact, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, Polk County health officials said.

“The emergence of monkeypox in the United States serves as a reminder to stay up to date on regular STI testing based on your sexual behavior, partners and if you have symptoms,” Eddy said. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides recommendations on healthy sexual practices.”

More: 'Bursts of sharp jabbing pain': What it's like to have monkeypox – and the fight against stigma

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

People with monkeypox sometimes develop a flu-like illness with fever, fatigue and enlarged lymph nodes followed by a rash. In other instances, people can develop a rash with or without swollen lymph nodes, which can occur on the genitals or around the anus or both. Those in close contact should keep an eye on symptoms of illness.

Many cases in this year's outbreak have reported very mild or no symptoms other than a rash, as reported by the Tennessean.

People usually develop monkeypox 7 to 14 days — and up to 21 days — after being exposed.

Monkeypox can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed, according to the CDC. Most people recover in two to four weeks. However, monkeypox can be serious in rare instances, especially for immunocompromised people, children and those who are pregnant.

Polk County Health Department officials encourage the following individuals to call and seek guidance from their medical provider:

  • Those who have recently traveled to an area where monkeypox cases have been reported and have symptoms of monkeypox, especially a rash or lesions. A list of the countries where monkeypox has been reported can be found on the CDC's website.

  • Contact with a confirmed or suspected monkeypox case.

How can I prevent the spread of monkeypox?

According to the CDC, people can take the following step to help prevent getting monkeypox:

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.

  • Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.

  • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox.

  • Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox.

  • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.

Those who are sick with monkeypox should isolate at home, CDC says. Those with an active rash or other symptoms should stay in a separate room or area away from people or pets they live with, if possible.

Is there a monkeypox vaccine?

There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox infections, but smallpox viruses are genetically similar, meaning smallpox vaccines could be used to prevent monkeypox infections, according to USA TODAY.

The Jynneos vaccine is one of those vaccines, and it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2019 for monkeypox prevention in people ages 18 and older. It requires two doses, taken four weeks apart.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last month will release 56,000 doses of the Jynneos vaccine immediately in areas where monkeypox transmission rates are high, followed by an additional 240,000 doses in the coming weeks, USA TODAY reported.

Vaccine rollout: US to release at least 1.6 million vaccines to fight monkeypox by end of year, officials say

The vaccines will be distributed through a tier system, prioritizing areas with a high number of confirmed cases.

Iowa has received a limited amount of vaccines to protect lab staff, and it will continue to receive the vaccine for exposed and infected individuals, the state health department said Monday.

USA Today reporter Jordan Mendoza and Tennesseean reporter Gabe Hauari contributed to this story.

Virginia Barreda is a trending and general assignment reporter for the Des Moines Register. She can be reached at vbarreda@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter at @vbarreda2.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: What are the symptoms of monkeypox? What to know now that it's in Iowa