Monkeypox case detected in Marion County

State health officials recently confirmed a single case of the human monkeypox virus in Marion County.

The county is now one of seven where the Oregon Health Authority has detected hMPXV – the virus commonly known as monkeypox.

Katrina Rothenberger, Marion County’s public health director, declined Wednesday to say when and where in the county the case was detected, or the sex of the person infected.

“We are not releasing any information other than we have one case in Marion County as other demographic information could identify the individual,” Rothenberger said in an email.

Illness generally begins with fever, headaches and muscle aches, then one to three days later a rash — often in the face — spreading to the limbs, according to the health authority. The flat patches of rash eventually form large, firm bumps which then fill with fluid or pus, before scabbing and falling off typically over two to four weeks.

There are 32 confirmed cases and 57 presumptive cases of monkeypox in Oregon, with illness onsets spanning June 7 to Aug. 2, according to OHA data last updated Monday. The Marion County case was added to the state’s roster in the past week.

Of those infected, 87 are male and two are female.

Other counties with confirmed cases are Multnomah with 54, Lane with 15, Washington with 14, Clackamas with three, and Columbia and Coos with one each.

The virus is spread primarily through close skin-to-skin contact, including through sex, cuddling, massage and kissing, according to OHA. . 

Handling materials like clothing and bedding that may have touched a sick person’s rash can also spread the virus. “Less often, infection can happen during close, face-to-face contact for a long time (more than 3 hours),” according OHA guidance for people who may have been exposed.

Anyone planning to attend a festival, concert, party or other event should consider the amount of close, personal and skin-to-skin contact that could occur, the flier said.

The health authority said anyone who was exposed to monkeypox should check their temperature twice a day and watch for symptoms for 21 days after their last exposure — new rash, fever over 100.4 degrees, swollen lymph glands or chills.

Symptoms can start anywhere between days five and 21 following exposure, and anyone who gets those symptoms should isolate themselves from others.

“If you’re feeling sick and notice any new rashes – especially on the genitals or around the anus – avoid close skin-to-skin contact and talk to a health provider,” the flier said. Those who don’t have a provider can contact 211, a nonprofit call line that connects people to local resources like rental assistance, job training or disaster help.

County public health staff may check in with people who have had close contact with someone ill with monkeypox to get more information, intended to help determine their level of risk and whether they should receive a vaccine. Getting the vaccine after exposure can help prevent infection or severe symptoms, according to the health authority’s guidance.

Rothenberger said Marion County’s Health and Human Services Department has held two calls with clinicians from health systems around the county about the illness, how to test for it, proper use of personal protective equipment in a healthcare setting, and how to order vaccines and treatment from OHA.

“We’re working with local groups to develop some videos in languages other than English on signs, symptoms, transmission, and prevention,” she said.

Hundreds of Oregonians have been vaccinated against monkeypox, but a vaccine approved for use against the virus is in short supply.

Vaccine eligibility in Oregon is generally restricted to men and transgender women who have sex with men, with more information available from the health authority.

State health officials expect Oregon’s supply of vaccines for people exposed to monkeypox will increase, the health authority said on the flier.

Federal health officials have approved sending more than 11,000 vaccines to Oregon, and the health authority has received about 7,000. Only about 1,600 doses were administered as of Monday, according to reporting by Oregon Capital Chronicle.

Gov. Kate Brown in a statement Monday urged Oregonians to protect themselves from monkeypox.

“Let me be very clear: monkeypox is a virus that can impact anyone. Viruses spread regardless of your background, zip code, income level, race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation,” she said in a news release. “At the same time, our public health experts are following the science and data to make sure that testing and contact tracing resources, vaccines, and information are reaching the populations of Oregonians that are at highest risk. In the current outbreak, the most impacted communities have included gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.

“We have an ugly history in this country of ignoring diseases that primarily impact the LGBTQ+ community,” she added. “I remember the early days of the HIV epidemic, when a generation of gay men was dying and the government did not seem to care. It took years before there was general recognition from the public that HIV, like all viruses, spreads indiscriminately.”

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.