TEMPLE, Texas (FOX 44) – The Bell County Public Health District reported the first confirmed case of monkeypox in Bell County last Friday.

The Health District (BCPHD) is working with local healthcare providers to investigate this initial confirmed case of monkeypox virus infection in a resident with recent travel within the state. The patient is isolated, and is recovering at home.

The public health investigation has identified close contacts who may have been exposed, and they are being monitored and evaluated. The illness does not currently present a risk to the general public.

The Health District says there are now 338 cases in the state, and the vast majority of these cases are in the age group from 18-39.  As the number of new cases across the country and in Texas continues to rise, the Health District is working closely with the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (DSHS) and our local health care partners to identify potential cases and limit the spread.

Monkeypox is an infection caused by the monkeypox virus, which is in the same class of viruses that causes smallpox and vaccinia, but not chickenpox. Symptoms of monkeypox infection include fever, chills, headache, muscle ache and backache, and swollen lymph glands, followed by a rash three to five days after the fever starts. They may also experience respiratory symptoms (e.g., sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough). 

Monkeypox symptoms usually start within three weeks of exposure to the virus. If someone has flu-like symptoms, they will usually develop a rash between one to four days later. The rash may start anywhere on the body, but most commonly starts on the face. However, with the current outbreak, the rash often starts in the genital area. The rash can look like pimples or blisters. The illness typically lasts between two to four weeks.

The primary way people become infected with monkeypox is through close, personal contact with an infected person, including sexual contact. It can also be transmitted from person to person by inhaling large respiratory droplets or through close contact with body fluids and lesions, as well as contaminated materials (e.g., clothing or bed linens, and by sharing eating utensils or cups, cigarettes or vaping devices, kissing, and other activities where saliva might be exchanged with a person who has monkeypox).  

The Health District says that people should try to avoid skin-to-skin contact with strangers – especially those who have a rash or whose health history is unknown. Pregnant people can also spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta. Monkeypox does not spread easily between people without close contact.

In most cases, the infection clears up without specific treatment, but persons who are immunosuppressed, who are living with HIV, or who are pregnant are at higher risk of complications. Children under the age of eight are also at higher risk of more severe disease.

If you develop any of the symptoms described above, you can contact your health care provider or the Bell County Public Health District immediately to receive instructions of what to do next at (254) 939-2091 or disease@bellcountyhealth.org.     

The best way to help stop further spread of this disease is to quickly identify anyone who is infected and their contacts. If you think you may have been exposed to someone with monkeypox, you may be a candidate for a vaccine. The vaccine is most effective if given within four days of exposure, but can be given up to 14 days after exposure.

For more information about monkeypox, you can visit: www.dshs.state.tx.us/IDCU/disease/monkeypox/monkeypox/ and www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/.