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Two monkeypox cases now confirmed in Houston area; threat remains low

Hours after the Houston Health Department confirmed the first local case, the Harris County said it has also confirmed a case in an out-of-state visitor.

HOUSTON — Two monkeypox cases have now been confirmed in the Houston area, including one just reported by Harris County Public Health. 

HCPH said its confirmed case involves a visitor from another state, who has since returned to their home. A team from HCPH is working with the individual to identify others who may have been exposed.

“While the current risk of monkeypox infection in our community is low, we urge residents to be vigilant and seek medical attention if symptoms consistent with monkeypox do occur," said Community Health & Wellness Division Director Dr. Ericka Brow.  

Earlier today, the Houston Health Department announced a confirmed monkeypox infection in a Houston resident who had recently traveled internationally.

The Houston patient developed symptoms after returning from a trip and is experiencing a mild illness, according to the health department. The resident didn’t require hospitalization and is isolating at home.

"This is a new reality that we've been seeing, the transmission of diseases from animals to humans, what we call zoonotic infections," said Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease expert with Baylor College of Medicine.

Epidemiologists with the health department will reach out to people who had direct close contact with the person while infectious.

No other details were released about either local case because of privacy laws.

These are the first cases of monkeypox confirmed here. Only one other cases has been reported in Texas.

"I do not think this is going to be an explosive epidemic," Dr. Hotez said. "So it's a matter of striking a balance between being cautious and conservative." 

Dr. Hotez said he's more concerned with the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Monkeypox typically begins as a flu-like illness such as fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, chills and exhaustion, and swollen lymph nodes. One to three days after the appearance of fever, a rash develops -- often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body.

The threat of monkeypox to Houston remains low. Monkeypox is rare and doesn’t spread easily between people without close, personal, skin-to-skin contact.

It also can spread from person to person through prolonged face-to-face contact or close contact with the infectious rash, scabs or body fluids. 

Contact with items such as clothing or linens that previously touched the rash or body fluids is another way monkeypox spreads.

The illness lasts two to four weeks. It can spread from the time symptoms start until the rash fully heals and a fresh layer of skin has formed.

The only other confirmed case in Texas was a Dallas man who had traveled to Berlin, Germany and then to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. 

When he began reporting symptoms there he refused to isolate and returned to Texas anyway, according to health officials in Mexico. He reportedly returned to Dallas on June 4.

People planning international travel can review the CDC’s current recommendations for monkeypox and other communicable diseases for their intended destinations at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list.

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