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First case of monkeypox reported in Idaho, in a Treasure Valley patient

The monkeypox virus causes lesions that can resemble sores from acne, an ingrown hair or other viruses. They are infectious until the scab is fully healed. (UK Health Security Agency/CDC)
The monkeypox virus causes lesions that can resemble sores from acne, an ingrown hair or other viruses. They are infectious until the scab is fully healed. (UK Health Security Agency/CDC)

The patient lives in Idaho’s most populous area

The Idaho Division of Public Health and Central District Health on Wednesday announced the state’s first probable case of monkeypox in an Idaho resident.

The patient lives in the region covered by Central District Health. Idaho’s most densely populated area, the CDH region, includes Boise and the rest of Ada County.

Health officials said they believe the patient acquired the infection during travel outside the U.S. to another country experiencing a monkeypox outbreak. There currently are more than 560 known cases of monkeypox in the U.S. There have been no deaths in the U.S.

State and local public health officials, the patient’s health care providers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working together to ensure that the patient is treated and to perform contact tracing to identify and notify any contacts who may have been exposed to the virus, the news release said.

The patient is recovering from the illness, according to the release. Public health authorities in Idaho are waiting for confirmation from the CDC that the patient’s test sample does indeed contain the monkeypox virus. The virus can cause symptoms that mimic other illnesses.

The international outbreak of monkeypox began in May 2022. While the virus isn’t novel, the transmission patterns have been unusual. There have been more than 6,000 cases reported during this outbreak outside of the region of the world where the virus is typically found.

Most cases of monkeypox cause a mild illness with sores in and on the body. Most people recover without medication, but antiviral drugs can be given.

“This is a virus that does not naturally occur in the United States,” Victoria O’Dell, staff epidemiologist with Central District Health, said in the release. “The cases we have seen in the U.S., and the one possible case in Idaho, have been associated with international travel or importing animals from areas where the disease is more common.”

How does monkeypox spread? Are you at risk?

The virus that causes monkeypox is contagious. It spreads between people. But it does not transmit as easily as the airborne coronavirus and other respiratory viruses. According to the CDC, only people who have symptoms can transmit the virus.

The virus most often transmits through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs or body fluids. It can also spread through respiratory droplets during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, according to the CDC.

The virus can spread through clothing, sheets or other items that have touched a patient’s rash or body fluids. It is possible to catch monkeypox from infected animals or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal, the CDC said.

Patients can spread the virus from the time they begin to have symptoms until all of their symptoms, including lesions on their body, have healed completely. This usually takes two to four weeks, according to the CDC.

Early symptoms can include fever, body aches, chills and swollen lymph nodes. The characteristic symptom — which can appear in the days following the flu-like symptoms — is a rash that starts as small red spots. The spots can show up as firm circles, or they can become pus-filled circles with an indentation in the center. The lesions remain infectious until they are replaced by a new layer of skin.

“We are reminding people to look out for new spots, ulcers or blisters on any part of their body,” Dr. Christine Hahn, public health medical director and state epidemiologist, said in the release. “If anyone suspects they might have monkeypox, particularly if they have recently had a new sexual partner, they should limit their contact with others and contact their health care provider as soon as possible — although please phone ahead before going in person.”

Risk factors include:

  • contact with someone with a rash that looks like monkeypox
  • skin-to-skin contact with someone where monkeypox is reported
  • travel outside the U.S. to a country with confirmed cases of monkeypox
  • contact with a dead or live animal that is found in Africa, or use of products from those animals

The best ways to prevent infection are to limit contact with people who have symptoms, practice hand hygiene, avoid contact with animals or animal products from central or west Africa, and wear personal protective equipment if caring for someone who has monkeypox.

People with symptoms should stay home except to get medical care and isolate from other people or animals.

“As with any new disease outbreak, the risk of stigma and uncertainty is great,” the release said. “Public health officials are working alongside CDC, sexual health clinics and community organizations throughout Idaho to share accurate information about monkeypox — especially to people and groups at increased risk — through representative voices.”

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The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.