JoCo officials on alert after monkeypox case found in KC — Here’s what you need to know

Kansas City health officials reported Missouri's first known case of monkeypox on Saturday. So far, the CDC says there have been no confirmed cases of the rare disease reported in Kansas. Image courtesy of Cynthia Goldsmith / CDC

Local health officials, including those in Johnson County, are on heightened alert for potential spread of monkeypox, after the first reported case of the virus was reported over the weekend by the Kansas City Health Department.

In case you missed it: Kansas City health officials said Saturday that the individual who tested positive had recently traveled out of the state but did not specify where.

  • Though spread of communicable diseases has become a major focus of public attention the past two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic, local health authorities stress that monkeypox — which can cause serious illness if contracted — is still rare and the risk of spread remains very low.
  • As of Tuesday, Johnson County health officials say no confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported here.

Here’s what to know about monkeypox:

What is it? Monkeypox is a rare virus that comes from the same virus “family” as smallpox.

  • The first sign of a positive monkeypox case is a rash, which usually looks like pimples or blisters.
  • Other symptoms include muscle aches, headache, fever and swollen lymph nodes.
  • Infection (and risk of spreading it) usually lasts until the rash is completely healed, which can take several weeks.

How is it spread? Monkeypox is spread through direct contact with an infectious rash or the bodily fluids of someone who is infected.

  • Touching something that an infected person recently directly touched also runs the risk of contracting monkeypox. For example, touching a shirt that someone just wore over their rash.
  • It can also be spread through prolonged face-to-face contact with someone who has it.
  • Infected animals can also spread monkeypox through scratching or biting someone.
  • In contrast to COVID-19, which spreads most readily via air droplets dispersed when someone breathes, coughs or speaks, health officials say monkeypox is much less transmissible.

Is it serious? Monkeypox is pretty rare, and according to the CDC, most cases aren’t fatal.

  • However, people with histories of eczema or with weakened immune systems are at more of a risk of serious illness or death, as are children under 8 years old or people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • In some cases, the monkeypox can also be painful and leave permanent scars.

Is Johnson County monitoring for it? According to a spokesperson from the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, the health department is working with KDHE and local hospitals to monitor any potential cases.

  • As of Tuesday, there are no confirmed monkeypox cases in Johnson County.
  • In general, early CDC guidance projects the risk of monkeypox in the country to be fairly low.
  • As of June 17, just 113 cases of monkeypox had been confirmed in the U.S., with the case in Kansas City being the only confirmed case in Missouri.
  • No cases have been reported in Kansas.

How can you avoid it? The CDC recommends practicing good hygiene as a good starting point, including the regular washing of your hands.

  • It’s also recommended to avoid any sick animals in places where monkeypox has been detected.
  • This includes touching anything a sick animal has directly touched.