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Minnesota reports first monkeypox case

Officials identified the case through initial testing at the state public health laboratory on Saturday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working on final confirmation.

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Monkeypox virus
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ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Department of Health on Monday, June 27, reported the state’s first presumptive monkeypox virus infection.

A Twin Cities adult who was likely exposed to the virus while traveling in Europe is receiving outpatient treatment for the disease, the health department said. The agency is conducting contact tracing to find anyone else who may have been exposed.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said she does not believe there were any "high risk" contacts in Minnesota but expects to see more cases in the future. Despite low risk to the public, she urged anyone with a new rash or other symptoms such as a fever to reach out to their health care provider.

"Minnesota providers have been informed to watch for monkeypox symptoms and to test if the clinical criteria exist," Malcolm said. "If you are experiencing symptoms, please stay away from others. Our public health staff are working closely with local partners to ensure that anyone who has close contacts is notified and informed what to do and to provide resources to offer vaccine and testing to those who may be at highest risk in the community and treatments for any who tests positive."

Officials identified the first Minnesota case through initial testing at the state public health laboratory on Saturday, June 25. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta was working on final confirmation, the health department said Monday.

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International health officials raised concerns about monkeypox this spring after the disease was identified in several European countries where it is not usually found. As of June 24, The CDC has reported 201 cases of monkeypox in 26 states after the first U.S. case was confirmed in Massachusetts in May. In 2022 there have been more than 4,000 cases in dozens of countries outside where it is typically found in western and central Africa.

In response to the outbreak, the CDC has issued an alert for travelers. The World Health Organization said most of the current cases in the U.S. and Europe are not linked to travel to African countries, which is atypical. While the outbreak warrants attention, it is not a health emergency the group said in late June.

Symptoms of a monkeypox infection include: fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that can look like pimples or blisters. Some have only reported a rash, which can sometimes appear in the mouth or on the genitals. The disease requires close and prolonged contact to spread, and sustained skin-to-skin contact, including sexual contact, is a risk factor, according to the health department. Contact with clothing, bedding, furniture or other items that have been exposed to a sick person's skin lesions can also lead to an infection.

An infection typically resolves within two to four weeks without treatment, though it can sometimes lead to scarring from sores, pneumonia and in rare cases can be fatal, according to the health department.

Unlike chickenpox, which is a herpesvirus, monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus related to now-eradicated smallpox, according to the WHO. The first human infection was recorded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970. Monkeypox became more common in western and central Africa after countries ceased routine immunization for smallpox following its eradication in the late 1970s. The smallpox vaccine offers protection from monkeypox.

Vaccines and antiviral drugs are available for monkeypox, but the CDC does not currently recommend widespread use and says health professionals should approach vaccination on a case-by-case basis.

Many of the monkeypox cases in Europe and the U.S. have been in gay and bisexual men, Malcolm said in a briefing call with reporters, though she added that the virus does not just affect men who have sex with other men.

"Monkeypox does not discriminate based on race. gender, sexual orientation, where you come from or anything else," she said. "We condemn all forms of discrimination, violence and harm toward others based on bias or stigma."

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Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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