Arizona's first case of monkeypox — a rare virus that has seen a global uptick in transmission this year — has now been identified in Maricopa County, health officials announced on Tuesday.
Officials emphasized that the risk from an isolated case of monkeypox remains low.
“It is important to remember that monkeypox remains a rare disease here in the United States and in Maricopa County,” Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for disease control at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, wrote in a press release.
Monkeypox is not a new disease. It was first reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970, and is endemic to several other countries in central and west Africa. In other places, isolated outbreaks have occurred over the years, including in the United States and Europe.
This year, however, the disease has prompted additional concern among some health officials. More cases than normal have been reported. So far, some two dozen cases have been confirmed in the United States, from California to Massachusetts. "This is the first time we’re seeing cases across many countries at the same time in people who have not traveled to the endemic regions in Africa,” one World Health Organization researcher recently said
Monkeypox, unlike COVID-19, is not a respiratory illness, and thus far less contagious
. It spreads through skin-to-skin contact, and primarily through sexual contact, according to the World Health Organization.
Symptoms of the disease are similar to smallpox: It begins with a fever and rash, then turns into pus-filled skin sores that scab over.
Monkeypox is more mild than smallpox, however. Although some monkeypox outbreaks in other countries have had fatality rates
between 3 and 10 percent, there were no fatal cases in the last U.S. outbreak, which occurred in 2003.
“It’s important to note that monkeypox is highly controllable through simple precautions," said Don Herrington, the interim director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Health officials for the state and Maricopa County said Tuesday that the case identified in Arizona is still considered a "probable case," though the man infected has tested positive, and is awaiting the results from another test.
Few details were provided about the case or its origins, aside from the fact that it was identified in Maricopa County. Officials said the man was in his late 30s, and is now in isolation and is recovering.