Texas resident hospitalized with rare monkeypox diagnosis 18 years after outbreak in US

Pox virus, illustration. Pox viruses are oval shaped and have double-strand DNA. There are many types of Pox virus including Chickenpox, Monkeypox and Smallpox. Smallpox was eradicated in the 1970's. Infection occurs because of contact with contaminat

A Texas resident who recently traveled from Africa has been hospitalized after contracting what the Texas Department of State Health Services believes is the first case of monkeypox in the state, a diagnosis that comes 18 years after the nation's last outbreak of the rare disease.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other heath officials are working to trace the person's contacts to help prevent another outbreak of the illness. But health officials say the risk to the public is low, especially because COVID-19 precautions on the person's flights probably kept the virus from spreading.

Monkeypox, which originates from the same family of viruses as smallpox, causes flu-like illness and swelling of the lymph nodes, progressing to a widespread rash on the face and body, according to the CDC. Most infections last two to four weeks. Though it's known to cause mild infection, it can become a serious viral illness.

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People can catch monkeypox by coming in contact with infected animals or animal products, including by preparing wild game or being bitten or scratched by an animal, according to the CDC. Experts believe human-to-human transmission of monkeypox occurs primarily through large respiratory droplets.

Most outbreaks of monkeypox have occurred in Africa; the first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A U.S. outbreak of monkeypox occurred in 2003 after the virus spread from imported African rodents to pet prairie dogs, resulting in 47 reported cases.

The Texas resident, whose identity will remain anonymous to protect the patient's privacy, took two flights during their return from Africa to the U.S. in early July, according to a CDC press release: one from Lagos, Nigeria, to Atlanta and one from Atlanta to Dallas.

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Asymptomatic people can’t spread the virus to others, according to Dallas County Health and Human Services. Passengers on the flights wore face masks onboard, as well as in the airport, because of COVID-19 protocols, diminishing the overall likelihood of spread, according to the release.

“While rare, this case is not a reason for alarm and we do not expect any threat to the general public,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a press release. “Dallas County Health and Human Services is working closely with local providers, as well as our state and federal partners.”

The Texas resident is hospitalized in isolation in Dallas and is in stable condition.

“We have been working closely with the CDC and DSHS and have conducted interviews with the patient and close contacts that were exposed,” Dr. Philip Huang, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, said. “We have determined that there is very little risk to the general public. This is another demonstration of the importance of maintaining a strong public health infrastructure, as we are only a plane ride away from any global infectious disease.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Monkeypox in US: Texas resident hospitalized; outbreak risk low