A Dallas resident, who recently returned from Nigeria, has been diagnosed with monkeypox, a rare but potentially serious viral illness, according to The New York Times.
On Friday, public health officials said the patient was hospitalized in Dallas and in stable condition, adding that the risk of the spread of the virus is low.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it was working with an unidentified airline and state and local health officials to contact passengers who had traveled with the patient on two flights.
The agency said it believed that the patient’s risk of spreading monkeypox to others through respiratory droplets was limited because travelers on those flights and in the airports in Atlanta and Dallas were required to wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to the news outlet.
On Friday, Clay Jenkins, the Dallas County judge said, “While rare, this case is not a reason for alarm, and we do not expect any threat to the general public.”
Dr. Philip Huang, Director and Health Authority for the Dallas County Health and Human Services Department, said the county health officials had been working with state and federal agencies to interview the patient and people who had been in close contact with the person.
He said in a statement, “We have determined that there is very little risk to the general public. This is another demonstration of the importance of maintaining a strong public health infrastructure, as we are only a plane ride away from any global infectious disease.”
Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although it is clinically less severe, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The disease occurs in Central and West Africa, often in proximity to tropical rainforests.
Monkeypox caused an outbreak in the United States in 2003 after it spread from imported African rodents to pet prairie dogs, according to the CDC. During that outbreak, officials reported 47 confirmed and probable cases in six states.
People who were infected by monkeypox reported symptoms such as fever, headaches, muscle aches, and rash. No deaths were reported, the CDC said.
The WHO says the first case of human monkeypox was identified in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a 9-year-old boy in a region where smallpox had been eliminated in 1968.
Dr. Anne Rimoin, Professor of Epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, said monkeypox was not as contagious as coronavirus or influenza.
“The risk is low, but this just highlights the fact that an infection anywhere is potentially an infection everywhere,” she said.
“This should serve as a reminder that infectious diseases are spilling from animals to humans regularly and that COVID is not the only infectious disease of zoonotic origin that we may worry about in the future.”
Currently, there is no specific treatment recommended for monkeypox, according to the WHO.
The story appeared in the New York Times.