Breaking News
More () »

First inmate tests positive for monkeypox at the Harris County Jail, sheriff says

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the inmate started showing symptoms while in quarantine after being booked into the jail on Aug. 15.

HOUSTON — A male inmate has become the first confirmed case of monkeypox at the Harris County Jail, according to Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.

The sheriff made the announcement in a tweet Thursday morning.

The sheriff said the inmate was booked into the jail on Aug. 15 without any complaints. The inmate was placed in temporary quarantine as part of the jail’s COVID-19 protocols.

While the inmate was in quarantine for almost a week, he started showing symptoms of monkeypox on Monday, the sheriff said. The jail began contract tracing and has been in communication with local health authorities.

Following the confirmed case, the jail began its cleaning and disinfecting protocols. Officials do not believe the man contracted monkeypox at the jail.

MONKEYPOX CASES: Track Houston area, local counties and Texas case numbers; get answers to common questions

Marquita Casely-Hayford, medical liaison for the Harris County Jail, said the inmate is a man in his 30s and is doing well. He remains in isolation in the medical unit and is receiving treatment. 

Casely-Hayford said no one else has been tested for monkeypox because no one else has shown possible symptoms. 

Public health officials are optimistic they'll be able to contain the spread. 

"He was quarantined so there is no possibility or a low possibility of spread," said Casely-Hayford. 

The inmate will remain in quarantine for 21 more days as is standard CDC protocol. Anyone who may have been in contact with him will be notified and offered the monkey pox vaccine if they'd so choose.

Who is eligible for the monkeypox vaccine?

The latest Texas Department of State Health Services criteria for others who are eligible now includes these people:

  • People with a known or possible exposure to the Monkeypox virus remain the highest priority for vaccination.  

For people 18 and older the list includes: 

  • Men who have sex with men and have had multiple or anonymous sex partners within the previous 21 days;
  • Have a sex partner who is showing symptoms of monkeypox, such as a rash or sores;
  • Have had a diagnosis of HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, or early syphilis, within the previous 12 months;
  • Are on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis;
  • Have a condition that may increase their risk for severe disease if infected with monkeypox virus, such as HIV, atopic dermatitis or eczema.

How does monkeypox spread?

  • The disease, which can cause a serious skin rash, appears to be spreading largely via direct contact with the skin or saliva of an infected person.
  • Monkeypox can spread from person to person through direct contact with the rash, scabs, or bodily fluids like saliva.
  • It can also be transmitted with prolonged face-to-face contact via respiratory droplets.  
  • Pregnant women can transmit the virus to their fetuses through the placenta.
  • At this time, it's not known if monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids. However, the DSHS says the majority of Texas cases, so far, involve men who've had sex with other men.

Monkeypox symptoms

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills 
  • Exhaustion
  • Rash that looks like pimples or blisters; the rash often appears first on the face and/or inside the mouth and then on other parts of the body.

Anyone who develops a rash should avoid direct contact with other people and contact their health care provider as soon as possible for the next steps.

“We want people to know what the symptoms are, and if they have symptoms, to avoid the types of close contact with other people that can spread the disease," said Dr. Jennifer Shuford, the chief epidemiologist in Texas.

Is monkeypox deadly?

Infections with the strain of monkeypox virus identified in this outbreak—the West African strain—are rarely fatal. Over 99% of people who get this form of the disease are likely to survive. However, people with weakened immune systems, children under 8 years of age, people with a history of eczema, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be more likely to get seriously ill or die.

Although the West African strain is rarely fatal, symptoms can be extremely painful, and people might have permanent scarring resulting from the rash.

Could my pet get monkeypox?

Monkeypox is zoonotic, meaning it can spread between animals and people. However, The CDC does not currently believe that monkeypox poses a high risk to pets. Officials say they are continuing to monitor the situation closely.

During the 2003 monkeypox outbreak in the United States, we did not see the disease spread to domestic animals other than prairie dogs, and we do not have reason to believe that we will see that now. However, we still recommend that people with monkeypox avoid interacting with animals and find someone else to take care of their pets while they recover.

Why is it called monkeypox?

Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, according to the CDC. Despite being named “monkeypox”, the source of the disease remains unknown. However, African rodents and non-human primates (like monkeys) may harbor the virus and infect people.

The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970. Since then, monkeypox has been reported in people in several central and western African countries. Prior to the 2022 outbreak, nearly all monkeypox cases in people outside of Africa were linked to international travel to countries where the disease commonly occurs, or through imported animals.

Sources: CDC and DSHS

KHOU 11 on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Paid Advertisement

Before You Leave, Check This Out