Health officials have announced that a rare case of human monkeypox has been detected in Texas, making it the first-ever case of the virus seen in the Lone Star state and the first in the United States in 18 years.
The viral illness was found in a Dallas resident who recently traveled from Nigeria to the United States, arriving at Love Field airport on July 9, according to Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS).
The infected individual remains hospitalized in stable condition in Dallas, the agency said, adding that it is working with airline and state and health officials to reach out to passengers who may have come into contact with the patient on flights.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement that contact tracing efforts are focused on passengers who may have come into contact with the patient on two flights: Lagos, Nigeria, to Atlanta, on July 8, which arrived in the United States on July 9, as well as a July 9 flight from Atlanta to Dallas.
The CDC said that since passengers on flights and at airports were required to wear masks due to COVID-19, “it’s believed the risk of spread of monkeypox via respiratory droplets to others on the planes and in the airports is low.”
DCHHS director, Dr. Philip Huang, in a statement that, “we have determined that there is very little risk to the general public,” from the monkeypox case.
“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,” Huang added.
Monkeypox, which is related to the smallpox virus, is a rare but potentially serious viral illness that typically begins with flu-like symptoms and swelling of the lymph nodes, gradually progressing to a widespread rash on the face and body. Most monkeypox infections, which tend to be milder than smallpox, typically last no more than four weeks, according to the CDC.
The illness can spread to humans when they come into contact with an infected animal or possibly animal products, the CDC said, noting that human-to-human transmission is believed to occur mainly through large respiratory droplets.
The CDC said that laboratory tests determined that the Dallas patient was infected with a strain of monkeypox most commonly found in parts of West Africa, including Nigeria.
Besides Nigeria, outbreaks have been reported in central and western African countries since 1970, with a large outbreak in people in the United States in 2003, the CDC said.
Prior to the current case, there have been at least six reported monkeypox cases in travelers returning from Nigeria, including in the United Kingdom, Israel, and Singapore, according to the CDC.