RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — The first positive case of monkeypox in Central Virginia was reported Thursday as cases across the Commonwealth and country continue to gradually rise.
The Virginia Department of Health said the region’s first case was detected in a man, though a representative declined to share the person’s age and the circumstances of how they may have contracted it.
While the virus does not spread as easily as COVID-19, the potentially serious side effects are prompting state officials to inform the public of its spread and prevention.
“It’s still a public health concern,” said CU Health’s Chief of Infectious Diseases Dr. Gonzalo Bearman, noting symptoms range from fever, swollen lymph nodes and a rash that turns to blisters, and then scabs.
“It comes from animals, typically rodents, being transmitted to humans. There actually was monkeypox in the United States in 2003,” Bearman added, mentioning monkeypox is similar to smallpox but not exactly the same.
A confirmed 40 cases of monkeypox have been reported statewide as of Thursday, primarily seen in Northern Virginia where there have been 32 cases reported.
“Really, the people at most risk are people who have close contact with other people who already have monkeypox,” Dr. Laurie Forlano said, a top epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health.
The agency said the virus spreads from sexual and intimate contact: hugging or kissing included, even sharing unwashed clothing from someone with monkeypox.
A VDH spokesperson said 300 vaccines are earmarked for Virginians with close contact with confirmed monkeypox cases — the only group of people who can currently get shots.
“The next priority is to provide vaccines to people who have a higher risk of recent exposure for monkeypox,” Forlano said.
Forlano added that the next categories of people who will be eligible for vaccines are men who have sex with men and who have had multiple sex partners, sex workers and people “attending venues where high-risk sexual activity” may occur.
Vaccines for these groups will be offered in one to two weeks, Forlano added.