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Idaho reports a first case of what appears to be local monkeypox transmission

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)

A person in Canyon County appears to have caught the monkeypox virus, in what would be Idaho’s first identified case of local transmission.

The Southwest District Health public health department reported the case Friday in a news release.

“The investigation is ongoing. Local and state public health officials are working with the patient’s healthcare providers to ensure the patient is treated and any potential close contacts are identified and notified of exposure risk,” the department said.

A spokesperson for the department told the Idaho Capital Sun, “Currently, no travel has been identified at this time in the investigation.”

The department also reminded the public that most people recover at home after a mild illness. There are antiviral medications available, but public health officials encourage vaccination for people who have been exposed to monkeypox. “Individuals with monkeypox should self-isolate until their lesions have fully healed with new skin where the lesions used to be,” it said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reported more than 4,900 cases of the monkeypox virus in the U.S. Three of those cases were in Idaho.

State and local health officials on July 6 announced the first probable case of monkeypox in Idaho, in a person living in the Central District Health region. The patient was believed to have caught monkeypox during travel to another country. At the time, there were more than 560 known cases of monkeypox in the U.S.

There are many differences between the monkeypox virus and the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. Still, observers have noted some parallels between the early outbreaks of both infectious diseases. For instance, monkeypox testing has been limited, and it is unclear how many cases are going undetected, allowing for more transmission. However, the smallpox vaccine is effective against monkeypox, so immunizations do not need to be developed from scratch.

Members of Congress have been slow to react to the growing monkeypox outbreak, States Newsroom reported Thursday.

“Public health officials in the Biden administration have held several briefings, expanded testing capacity to nationwide commercial laboratories, distributed more than 200,000 vaccine doses and begun ordering millions more for the national stockpile,” according to States Newsroom reporting.

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.