JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the first time in nearly two decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is keeping tabs on a rare case of a disease known as monkeypox in the United States.
According to the CDC, the agency was notified July 15 that a person who traveled from Nigeria to Dallas, Texas, was infected with monkeypox, a disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus.
The CDC is monitoring 200 people in 27 states who could have come into contact with the person, including flight attendants and passengers from the flight, and anyone who used the same bathroom.
This marks the first documented case of monkeypox in the U.S. since 2003 when an outbreak of the disease occurred as a result of a shipment of animals imported from Ghana, according to the CDC.
The disease takes its name from its discovery in 1958 when researchers documented two outbreaks among colonies of monkeys kept for research. It wasn’t until 1970 that the first human case was found.
Initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, chills and exhaustion, among others. Days later, patients develop a rash on their face, which spreads to the rest of their bodies.
“If you were to get monkeypox, it would present symptom-wise as a sort of flu-like illness and then very quickly progresses to full-body rash,” said Chad Neilsen, director of accreditation and infection prevention at UF Health Jacksonville.
Neilsen said even though monkeypox can be deadly, the disease is extremely rare because of its origin.
“The only folks who should be concerned are if you are handling small rodents or prairie dogs in the African region or you’re handling exotic pets coming from Africa,” Neilsen told News4Jax.
The CDC says human-to-human transmission of the virus that causes the disease is “thought to occur primarily through large respiratory droplets.”
The good news, Neilsen said, is the risk of other passengers on the Nigeria-to-Dallas flight is very low because everyone on the flight was required to wear a mask.
“The general public, particularly here in the U.S., doesn’t need to be worried about this,” he said.