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Public health officials: Monkeypox may spread to Montana within weeks

This digitally-colorized electron microscopic (EM) image depicts monkeypox virus particles sampled in 2003.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A Missoula public health official says monkeypox could reach Montana within weeks.

As of Sunday, Montana is one of only seven states left without a reported case of monkeypox. Public health officials suspect it’s only a matter of time before that changes.

Missoula City-County Health Promotion Director Cindy Farr says Montana’s rural nature and relatively low population has so far likely insulated it from monkeypox.

“But we definitely expect that we're probably going to see cases," she said, "and I would not be surprised if we start to see cases just, like, in the next couple of weeks.”

Missoula’s local health department urges medical professionals and residents to familiarize themselves with the virus.

Farr compares it to chicken pox: Early symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache and swollen lymph nodes. A rash follows — little blisters that begin on the face and spread elsewhere.

People experiencing symptoms are encouraged to get tested. If the test results are positive, people should isolate until the rashes scab over, fall off and then are replaced by new skin.

Monkeypox spreads through direct contact with an infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids; respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face or intimate physical contact. It can also spread by touching items that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids.

Nationally many monkeypox cases have been reported in men who have sex with men, but Missoula public health officials stress anyone can get it.

Monkeypox vaccines exist but are currently in limited supply.
Copyright 2022 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.