BELLEVILLE, Ill. – The St. Clair County Health Department is investigating the county’s first probable case of monkeypox. This comes a few days after the city of St. Louis reported its first probable case of the virus.

A health department spokesperson said Thursday the case is likely associated with domestic travel.

The health department is awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And while the individual in question has had minimal contact with the public, all potential close contacts have been notified.

No additional information regarding the individual will be disclosed to protect patient confidentiality, the health department said.

“So, it’s transmitted directly from person to person, if you have contact with infectious material from a rash or scab or bodily fluids. So, it’s not as transmissible as COVID-19 where it’s just brief contact, said Myla Blandford, executive director of the St. Clair County Health Department. “You have to have prolonged contact and contact directly with the bodily fluids.”

The health department said that currently there is no risk of extensive local spread of the virus. The CDC has reported 152 confirmed and probable monkeypox cases in Illinois as of Wednesday.

Monkeypox (clinically referred to as orthopox) is in the same family of viruses as smallpox. Its symptoms are similar, though milder, to smallpox. It is important to know monkeypox can be fatal in rare instances. There are long-established vaccines and treatments for those infected.

According to the CDC, the monkeypox virus was discovered in 1958 in monkeys being kept for research. While the name of the virus is derived from its discovery, the actual source of monkeypox is unknown.

The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970, in a child living in a remote rainforest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Monkeypox symptoms will present anywhere between seven and 14 days after exposure. The disease itself lasts two to four weeks.

Symptoms include fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, muscle ache, backache, chills, and exhaustion. Pimple or blister-like rashes will appear on an infected person’s face or inside their mouth and eventually spread across the body.

“If you’re intimate with an individual you want to have that conversation about monkeypox,” said Blandford. “Be aware if there are any new rashes on your partner or your own body. If you do discover something on your own body, you should reach out to your health care provider virtually don’t just go to the clinic, call ahead and let them know what your concerns are so you can be assessed.”

The virus can spread from the time symptoms first appear until the rashes themselves have fully healed.

Monkeypox is spread through person-to-person contact, including (but not limited to):

  • Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids;
  • Respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex; and
  • Touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids.

Infected pregnant people can also spread the virus to their fetuses through the placenta.

There are efforts to ramp up testing for the virus in the U.S. Quest Diagnostics will start testing for monkeypox. Quest Diagnostic has 33 locations in the St. Louis area. The test use swab specimens to determine if a person is infected. Quest said they expect to be able to test about 30,000 people a week by the end of July.