A case of monkeypox has been confirmed by a Texas resident who had flown to Atlanta from Nigeria on July 8 with a final destination for Dallas Love Field Airport on July 9, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. It is the first case of the virus seen in the United States in nearly two decades.
The patient is hospitalized in Dallas and is in stable condition, health officials with Dallas County Health and Human Services said.
“This case is not a cause for alarm and we do not expect any threat to the public,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a press release.
The disease caused by the monkeypox virus has not been detected in the United States since a 2003 outbreak involving 47 people. This outbreak was traced to pet prairie dogs in the Midwest that housed the virus.
But monkeypox can also spread from person to person through respiratory drops or other body fluids.
One of the reasons the risk of proliferation in this case may be low is that the patient – as well as other air passengers – had been required to wear masks during the flight due to the pandemic, officials said in the statement.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helps contact the patient’s fellow passengers and assess their potential risks.
“This is yet another demonstration of the importance of maintaining a strong public health infrastructure, as we are only a plane away from any global communicable disease,” said Dr. Philip Huang, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, in a press release.
Monkeypox is related to smallpox, which was eradicated worldwide in 1980 thanks to the smallpox vaccine. Both diseases cause a marked rash that lasts for about a month. Smallpox had a higher mortality rate than monkeypox.
It usually takes seven to 14 days after a person is exposed to the monkeypox virus to develop symptoms, according to the CDC, which begin like many other viruses: fatigue, fever, headache, muscle aches.
Within a week after the onset of symptoms, an infected person develops an uneven, swollen rash that often spreads to the entire body. The person is considered contagious until the swollen bumps are scurvy over and fallen off.
Most patients recover within a month. In rare cases, the virus can be fatal. No one in the 2003 outbreak in the United States died.
The virus got its name because it was first found in laboratory monkeys in the late 1950s. It was not until 1970 that it was detected in humans in the Congo. Cases have been almost exclusively contained in remote areas of Central and West Africa.
There is no specific treatment or vaccine against monkeypox, the CDC says, although the smallpox vaccine was used in 2003 to help limit the outbreak.
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