The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is reporting the first case of probable hMPXV, the human version of the monkeypox virus, in Oregon.
The individual identifies as an adult male and has traveled to a community with confirmed cases, according to a release from the OHA. The patient remains isolated and is following recommendations from public health officials and medical providers. Confirmatory testing is being done at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
OHA is working closely with the CDC, local public health and the patient’s health care providers to ensure appropriate actions are taken to identify individuals at potential risk for exposure.
“hMPXV does not spread easily between people, so the risk to other people is generally very low,” OHA Public Health Physician Dr. Richard Leman said. “Unlike COVID-19, which can be spread easily from person to person through the air over several feet of space, hMPXV spreads between people primarily through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids. Less commonly, it can be spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact.”
Though hMPXV is in the same group of viruses as smallpox, it is not smallpox. hMPXV is much harder to catch, and it is not as severe. There are two strains of this virus, and the one that’s circulating now causes milder disease. Most people are recovering at home without any special treatment. Additionally, there have been no deaths reported nationwide.
Historically, people have become infected by handling wild animals, but hMPXV can also be transmitted person-to-person. This can happen through prolonged, close contact, either skin-to-skin, contact with fluid from hMPXV lesions, or less commonly from large respiratory droplets.
“An ill person who coughs or sneezes on someone else could possibly spread the infection. However, most transmission in the current outbreak appears to be from prolonged, skin-to-skin contact,” Leman said.
What are the symptoms?
Initial symptoms of hMPXV often include fever, headache and muscle aches. These symptoms are followed in one to three days by a rash, often on the face, spreading to the limbs. The rash starts with flat patches that then form large, firm bumps, which then fill with fluid or pus. These then scab and fall off, usually over two to four weeks. Symptoms usually start within seven to 14 days after exposure, with a range of five to 21 days.
When can a person ill with hMPXV spread it to others?
Ill people can potentially transmit the infection from when symptoms start until the rash has resolved. However, this is not an easy infection to catch. hMPXV typically requires prolonged, close contact. People at increased risk include sexual partners of an ill person, or family members and healthcare workers caring for someone ill with hMPXV.
Are there vaccines for hMPXV?
There is a vaccine specifically for hMPXV and smallpox called Jynneos. It could be used to protect people with high-risk exposure to someone ill with hMPXV. There is another vaccine, ACAM2000, that is approved to prevent smallpox. It could be used under special arrangements with CDC, but it is more likely to cause adverse effects.
Vaccines would be used to protect people who have known exposure to someone ill with hMPXV infection. It works to prevent or decrease disease even after someone was exposed. Members of the public who haven’t been exposed don’t need this vaccine.
How is OHA responding to the outbreak?
Currently, there are 84 cases across 18 states, no deaths and one case in Oregon.
OHA is working with community partners to share information about hMPXV, the outbreak and infection prevention strategies with people who might be at increased risk of infection. OHA is sharing information with clinicians about the outbreak, how to recognize and test for hMPXV illness and how to prevent spread.
For more information on hMPXV, visit this FAQ page.