Iowa health officials reported the state’s first probable case of monkeypox on Friday as infectious disease experts warn the country is at risk of losing control of the disease.
The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services said it is conducting contact tracing to identify those who were in direct close contact with the patient.
“The patient was likely infected during international travels and is isolating, receiving outpatient care and in regular communication with health department staff,” the department said in a statement.
States typically test for orthopoxvirus, the family of viruses that monkeypox belongs to, before sending samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmatory testing.
The CDC as of Friday had reported a total of 460 monkeypox cases in 30 other states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
Health officials continue to stress that the risk to the public remains low.
The disease spreads through close contact with an infected animal or person, generally through lesions, body fluids or respiratory droplets. But unlike the coronavirus, monkeypox droplets travel only up to a few feet and usually require prolonged contact for transmission.
Monkeypox causes swelling of the lymph nodes, which makes the virus distinctive from other, similar diseases, experts say. Patients also usually first present symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches, chills and exhaustion.
Within one to three days after initial symptoms, infected individuals develop a rash that typically spreads from the head to other parts of the body.
“Risk to the general public is low, but anyone with a rash that looks like monkeypox should talk to their healthcare provider, even if they don’t think they had contact with someone who has monkeypox,” the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services said.
Some jurisdictions have begun administering smallpox vaccines in response to the outbreak. The CDC suggests the smallpox vaccine is at least 85 percent effective against monkeypox.
“People with direct close contact are directed to watch for symptoms of illness and are offered a vaccine series that can prevent symptoms from developing or developing severe illness,” Iowa health officials said. “The CDC does not recommend broader use of the vaccine at this time; however, their evaluation of vaccine guidance is ongoing.”