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Arizona's 1st probable monkeypox case in Maricopa County

Arizona health officials announced Tuesday that they have identified the state’s first probable monkeypox case in Maricopa County.

They said testing at the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory returned a presumptive positive result and confirmatory testing is underway at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials said the case involves a man in his late 30s who is currently in isolation and recovering.

According to medical experts, monkeypox is a viral illness that primarily spreads through skin-to-skin contact although it can also spread through respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact.

It is endemic in some countries but not the United States. However, several countries including the United States have seen cases in recent weeks.

It is called monkeypox because it was first identified in laboratory monkeys.

Experts said monkeypox typically starts with a fever, which may be accompanied by headache, muscle aches, a back ache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

They said most patients with monkeypox fully recover from the virus without treatment.

Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, who is with the Maricopa County Public Health Department, says that monkeypox is rare. It’s also much less contagious than COVID-19.

"So, in order to transmit monkeypox, it really does take considerable skin-to-skin contact," Sunenshine said. 

Monkeypox belongs to the orthopoxvirus genus, along with smallpox.

"The CDC is still learning about how much protection having a prior smallpox vaccine provides. But it is thought that if you have had prior smallpox vaccination, you might have lower risk of contracting it if you are exposed," she said. 

Sunenshine says routine vaccination against smallpox stopped in the early 1970s.

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Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.