Although there are no official cases of monkeypox in Montana yet, the Missoula City-County Health Department issued a press release on Friday about the disease that is in the same family as smallpox, cowpox, and other viruses.

KGVO News spoke with COVID 19 Incident Commander Cindy Farr on Friday afternoon who described monkeypox.

“Monkeypox is an orthopox virus,” said Farr. “It's part of the orthopox family and that family actually includes smallpox and cowpox and several other kinds of viruses. So it really began spreading in non-endemic regions of the world in May, so just a couple of months ago.”

Farr speculated as to why no monkeypox cases have been reported yet in Montana.

“We are literally one of eight states in the United States that hasn't had any cases yet,” she said. “I've been asked ‘why haven't we seen it here’? and I think the reason is that we're a much more rural and frontier state and we just don't have that population density that a lot of other places do. You know, anytime that you've got lots of people in small areas then diseases are going to spread more easily. We haven't had any cases in Montana, but we expect that we're probably going to start to see them over the next few weeks.”

Farr described the initial symptoms of monkeypox.

“It's very similar to chickenpox,” she said. “The early signs are that you just feel a little bit of a flu-like illness with fever, fatigue, headaches, and swollen lymph nodes. Once in a while, you'll get maybe a cough or a sore throat, chills, and then after you would have those symptoms, then the rash starts to develop. And it's basically a little blister-like rash that starts on your face and then extends to the rest of your body.”

Farr addressed the subject of spreading the disease.

“You're essentially contagious from the very onset of the flu-like symptoms until after you get the rash and then it scabs over and then the scabs fall off and once that new skin starts to develop on those lesions, that's when you're no longer contagious and that's when you don't have to be isolated anymore,” she said.

In the press release from the Missoula City-County Health Department, Farr wrote:

Nationally, many monkeypox cases have been reported in men who have sex with men. Missoula Public Health is urging local healthcare providers to not overlook potential monkeypox cases in other populations. While it is possible for monkeypox to spread during sex, it is not a sexually transmitted disease. Anyone can get monkeypox. There should be no stigma attached to the LGBTQ community because of this. If anyone has any symptoms of monkeypox they should not hesitate to reach out to their provider immediately,” Farr said, “Having said that, we will work with community partners to educate and support vulnerable populations.”

Click here for more details.

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