Flathead County has Montana’s first suspected monkeypox case

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A day after the federal government declared a public health emergency to respond to monkeypox, the Montana health department on Friday reported the state’s first suspected case of the virus.

Wyoming is the only state in the country that hasn’t reported a case, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Montana health department and the Flathead City-County Health Department confirmed a presumptive case of monkeypox in an adult living in the county. The sample will be sent to the CDC for confirmation, officials said.

The health departments and the patient’s health care provider are working to identify people who may have been in contact with the patient while they were infectious.

The patient is isolating at home, officials said.

The virus spreads through prolonged skin-to-skin contact, including hugging, cuddling and kissing, as well as sharing bedding, towels and clothing. Symptoms can include fever, headache, body aches, swollen lymph notes, chills, exhaustion and a rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appear on the face, inside the mouth and on other parts of the body.

The illness can last 2-4 weeks and most people get better on their own without treatment.

Because the virus is similar to smallpox, antiviral drugs such as tecovirimat and vaccines developed to protect against smallpox may be effective to treat or prevent monkeypox. The health department has ordered a supply of tecovirimat, officials said.

The federal government declared a public health emergency on Thursday to improve its response to the outbreak, which at that point had infected more than 7,100 Americans in 48 states. A total of 7,500 cases had been reported by Friday, the CDC said.

Under the emergency declaration, the Department of Health and Human Services can draw from emergency funds, hire or reassign staff to deal with the outbreak and take other steps to control the virus.

The federal government should also be able to seek more information from state and local health officials about who is becoming infected and who is being vaccinated. That information can be used to better understand how the outbreak is unfolding and how well the vaccine works.