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Monkeypox case discovered in the Tri-Counties: What you need to know

Around 2900 cases of Monkeypox have been diagnosed in the United States. No U.S. deaths have been reported.
Centers for Disease Control
Around 2900 cases of Monkeypox have been diagnosed in the United States. No U.S. deaths have been reported.

Public health official says risk of exposure is extremely low to general public. More than 350 cases reported in California, with one in Ventura County.

You’ve heard about it for weeks in the news. Now, we’ve had the first documented case of monkeypox in the Tri-Counties. But, what exactly is it?

"Monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus, which puts it in the family with smallpox, and the moneypox virus comes out of Africa," said Ventura County Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Levin.

An adult male was diagnosed with the virus in Ventura County on Friday. The health department is doing contact tracing to identifying anyone who may have had close contact with the person. It's the first known case in the Tri-Counties.

Dr. Levin says there are actually two forms of monkeypox, with one more dangerous. One strain comes from Central Africa, and the other from West Africa.

"The one we're seeing is from Western Africa, [it] is the one that's spreading around the world right now," said Dr. Levin. "The one that's more concerning... more dangerous... is from Central Africa."

He says the death rate from the Central Africa version is 10%. The version we are seeing in the U.S. has a death rate of 1%, and as of July 25, no deaths have been reported from it in the United States.

The number of cases in the United States is still relatively low compared with the rest of the world, but growing. Around 2900 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., with just over 350 in California.

The virus can be spread through contact with infectious sores and body fluids, contaminated items like bedding, or droplets from face to face contact. But, it’s not easily spread through casual contact.

It's transmitted by close personal contact. So far, public health officials say the outbreak in the United States has been largely linked to men having sex with men. But, it has the potential to spread to the general population.

Dr. Levin said unless you are in a high risk group, the chances of you being exposed to it are very low. He says people who have anonymous and multiple sexual partners are most at risk. He said the average person shouldn't worry about the virus.

The public health official says most of the time it goes away without treatment, but there’s a vaccine available to those diagnosed with the virus.

Dr. Levin said the key to dealing with monkeypox is isolating it early, before it becomes widespread in the U.S. He believes that is happening, and that it will never become a widespread problem like COVID-19.

The Ventura County Public Health Department has been working with health care providers for weeks to make them aware of the virus, symptoms to look for, and how to test for it to try to keep a lid on its spread.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.