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Probable monkeypox case found in Michigan

A colorized scanning electron micrograph image shows monkeypox virus (orange) on the surface of infected cells (green).
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
A colorized scanning electron micrograph image shows monkeypox virus (orange) on the surface of infected cells (green).

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that it’s identified the state’s first probable case of monkeypox.

The health department said preliminary testing returned a “presumptive positive” result for an Oakland County resident, and confirmatory testing is underway at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“The individual is currently isolating and does not pose a risk to the public,” the health department said. “MDHHS is working with local health departments to notify any close contacts.”

Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state’s chief medical executive, said the virus that causes monkeypox is spread mainly through direct contact with an infectious rash, scabs, bodily fluids, or prolonged face-to-face contact.

“The risk to the general public is low,” Bagdasarian said. “However, Michiganders with concerns about monkeypox should see their provider to be evaluated for testing.”

The state health department said there are no treatments specifically for monkeypox, but the monkeypox and smallpox viruses “are genetically similar,” so therapies that protect against smallpox may also be used to prevent and treat monkeypox.

The case in Michigan comes a day after the Biden administration expanded a vaccine program to counter the virus’s spread.

Scientists have been warning about the potential for a monkeypox outbreak for decades. As vaccination against smallpox slowed with the virus’s eradication, immunity to the genetically similar monkeypox virus declined.

The World Health Organization saidthe virus was likely spreading at low levels before the current outbreak.

"The unexpected appearance of monkeypox and the wide geographic spread of cases indicate that the monkeypox virus might have been circulating below levels detectable by the surveillance systems and sustained human-to-human transmission might have been undetected for a period of time," the WHO said in a statement.

The CDC has confirmed more than 350 cases of monkeypox in the U.S. this year. Last year, there were two.

The World Health Organization has said it's working to give the virus a new name soon, to avoid discriminatory associations between the disease and the continent of Africa.

Copyright 2022 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Brett has a master’s degree from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism and before Michigan Radio, he was an intern at WNYC and with Ian Urbina of the New York Times and worked at WXXI and WCMU. He also produced freelance reporting work focused on health and science in New York City. Brett grew up in Bremerton, Washington, and holds a bachelor’s degree from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.