STATEWIDE (May 26, 2022) — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Public Health Laboratory has confirmed a presumptive monkeypox case and is awaiting CDC confirmation. The person who acquired the virus recently traveled to Canada where an outbreak of monkeypox is occurring and is cooperating with state and local public health epidemiologists who are investigating and notifying people who may have been exposed. There are currently no other presumptive positive monkeypox cases in Colorado.
The risk to the public continues to be low. While anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed or suspected monkeypox case can acquire monkeypox, people who have recently traveled to a country where monkeypox has been reported, or men who have sex with other men, are currently at a higher risk for monkeypox exposure.
The presumptive case is a young adult male who sought care in the Denver area, and is a man who has sex with men. He is now isolating at home with his condition improving. Coloradans should be aware of monkeypox symptoms and prevention. Monkeypox often begins with fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and exhaustion. Typically a rash develops within one to three days after the onset of fever, often beginning on the face and spreading to other parts of the body. In recent cases, the rash often starts in the genital or perianal area. The associated monkeypox rash can look similar to other infections like syphilis or herpes. The incubation period for monkeypox is usually seven to 14 days, but can range from less than five to 21 days. Most people recover within two to four weeks. Coloradans can help prevent the spread of monkeypox by avoiding close physical contact with individuals who have acquired monkeypox, wearing a high-quality mask if they will be spending time in close contact with someone experiencing symptoms of monkeypox, and contacting a health care provider as soon as possible if they experience symptoms.
“We want to reassure Coloradans that the risk to the public is low, but we also want them to know of the symptoms so that we can catch other cases as soon as possible,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We are grateful for the collaborative efforts of the CDC, local public health agencies, and health care providers in learning about, treating, and investigating this case.”
Two vaccines are available for the prevention of monkeypox, and Colorado is requesting vaccines from the federal government. The vaccines can be used to prevent infection or decrease the severity of infection among those who have had a high-risk exposure. An example of a high-risk exposure would be unprotected contact between a person’s skin or mucous membranes and the skin, lesions, or bodily fluids from a person known to have active monkeypox virus in their body. The determination of risk and the need for vaccination following an exposure is made by a medical provider with consultation from public health.
Monkeypox outbreaks are currently occurring in Canada, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, and other European countries. Monkeypox is rare in the United States, but has happened in people with international travel or people who had contact with animals from areas where the disease is more common. In 2021, there were two monkeypox cases in the United States associated with international travel, and there was a monkeypox outbreak in six states involving 47 cases associated with contact with infected animals that had contact with small mammals from Ghana in 2003. Neither of these outbreaks included cases in Colorado.
In parts of the world where human cases of monkeypox more commonly occur, people are typically exposed through bites or scratches from infected rodents and small mammals, preparing wild game, or having contact with an infected animal or possibly animal products. Monkeypox does not happen regularly in animals that live in the United States. The virus can also spread from human to human through large respiratory droplets, but this likely requires prolonged face-to-face contact. Other human-to-human ways of spreading the virus include direct contact with body fluids or broken lesions, and through contaminated clothing or linens. There are two known types of monkeypox.