PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has identified a city resident with a probable case of monkeypox. Testing to confirm the case is pending, and the resident has not been identified, officials said.
"The threat to Philadelphians from monkeypox is extremely low," said Health Department Acute Communicable Disease Program Manager Dana Perella. "Monkeypox is much less contagious than COVID-19 and is containable particularly when prompt care is sought for symptoms."
Perella said there is currently a vaccine to lessen the severity of illness and an antiviral treatment for patients with monkeypox.
"I believe that residents and visitors should feel safe to do all the fun things Philadelphia has to offer, with the proper precautions," she said.
City officials are working with the CDC to investigate how the person was exposed and if they may have exposed anyone else since they became infectious.
The current outbreak was first confirmed in a British resident on May 6. Since then, cases have been confirmed in 29 other non-endemic countries, including the United States. The CDC reports that there are 19 confirmed cases in 10 states. Worldwide, there has only been one death associated with this outbreak.
"Monkeypox is very rare in this area because we don't have any animals in the area that have monkeypox virus, so we cannot acquire it from the little rodents that normally carry it to people. That's the good news. The bad news is, in this particular outbreak, we're seeing it go from person to person which means we don't know how to completely avoid getting it," said Dr. Thomas Fekete, a professor at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.
Officials strongly recommend that anyone who is experiencing symptoms of an unexplained rash on their face, palms, arms, legs, genitals, or perianal region that may be accompanied by flu-like illness should contact their regular healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Monkeypox is spread through close, personal contact. Initial symptoms usually include fever, fatigue, headache, and enlarged lymph nodes. A rash often starts on the face and then appears on the palms, arms, legs, and other parts of the body. Some recent cases began with a rash on the genitals or perianal region only with no other initial symptoms.
Over a week or two, the rash changes from small, flat spots to tiny blisters that are similar to chicken pox, and then to larger blisters. These can take several weeks to scab over. Once the scabs fall off, the person is no longer contagious.
"Let's keep an eye on it. I think we'll know a lot more in the next few weeks, and with any luck, this will be a relatively small blip and nobody's going to have to worry too much about it in the future," Fekete said.
Monkeypox is a viral disease that is usually found in Central and West Africa. Monkeypox was first discovered in laboratory monkeys in 1958. Blood tests of animals in Africa later found evidence of Monkeypox infection in several African rodents. In 1970, Monkeypox was reported in humans for the first time.