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Suspected Monkeypox Case Reported In Sacramento County

Round and spherical shapes appear in gray on a white background.
A microscopic view of monkeypox virions.
(Courtesy CDC)
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A suspected case of monkeypox was reported in Sacramento County Tuesday, as a rare outbreak of the disease continues to move around the globe.

In Southern California
  • “We have no known cases here in L.A. County. We do want to reassure people, it's really, really rare,” said county public health director Barbara Ferrer on May 19.

  • The monkeypox virus spreads between people by contact with bodily fluids. Ferrer says if you have unusual rashes or legions, get it checked. Your health care provider should have been put on alert to watch out for monkeypox cases.

Sacramento County health officials say confirmation testing is still pending from the California Department of Public Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control, but based on the patient's symptoms, a monkeypox diagnosis is likely. It would be the first reported case in the state.

“This case appears to be related to recent travel to Europe,” Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said in a press release. “Public Health is working with CDPH to conduct contact tracing, and risk to the general public is extremely low.”

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Kasirye said the county was alerted by the patient’s primary doctor on May 21, and that the person got back to Sacramento County at least a day prior. It’s unclear when the person began developing symptoms.

Kasirye said the patient is isolating at home and not in contact with any other people. The county is doing full contact tracing, including with the people the patient was on a plane with.

According to the Associated Press, at least 90 people have been infected in 12 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Spain and England. Health officials aren't yet sure how the outbreak started, but are concerned the spread could signal a change from its typical behavior.

A White House official told NPR on Monday that the risk to the general public is low.

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Dr. Raj Panjabi, Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense at the National Security Council, said that vaccines and even treatments are available for monkeypox.

"The cases reported among Americans so far have been limited to those who've traveled to affected countries or have had very close contact with symptomatic patients," Panjabi said. "And so far, the cases we've seen have not been severe. The majority of infected individuals have flu-like symptoms and a rash, which can be painful but resolves in two to four weeks."

He noted that in previous U.S. outbreaks in 2021 and 2003, all patients fully recovered.

Kasirye said that the vaccine, which has to be ordered from the CDC, would be considered if an outbreak occurs.

Sacramento County health officials say confirmation testing is still pending from the California Department of Public Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control, but based on the patient's symptoms, a monkeypox diagnosis is likely. It would be the first reported case in the state.

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“This case appears to be related to recent travel to Europe,” Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said in a press release. “Public Health is working with CDPH to conduct contact tracing, and risk to the general public is extremely low.”

Health officials said the patient is isolating at home and not in contact with any other people.

What Is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a disease that causes fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes. The lesions are similar to those caused by smallpox.

Despite the name monkeypox, it doesn't come from monkeys. The disease was first discovered in 1958 in colonies of monkeys kept for research, which led to the name.

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Unlike COVID-19, monkeypox does not spread through the air, but only through "close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding," according to the WHO. There is a vaccine available for monkeypox.

"There is no evidence, to date, that person-to-person transmission alone can sustain monkeypox infections in the human population," a WHO factsheet says.

While the disease most often occurs in central and west Africa, cases and outbreaks have happened throughout the world, including one in the midwestern U.S. in 2003.

What questions do you have about Southern California?