FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – State health officials said Monday afternoon they’ve identified a second presumptive case of monkeypox in Broward County, just a day after identifying South Florida’s first presumptive case of monkeypox, also in the county.
It’s part of the largest outbreak ever seen outside of Africa, with at least 190 confirmed or suspected cases globally. Experts say the possibility of the virus spreading is low, but it can be dangerous.
Officials have isolated both patients and are going through the contact tracing process to identify anyone potentially exposed to the pathogen. They connected the first presumptive Broward case to international travel.
“It’s a virus that’s typically found in locations in Africa,” Dr. Sarah LaRosa said. “Usually it’s animal-to-human transmission but there can be cases of human-to-human transmission; it’s usually with very close contact.”
LaRosa, the emergency room medical director at HCA Florida University Hospital in Davie, said symptoms typically begin with a fever and flu-like symptoms and eventually progresses into a rash.
“People will develop a rash anywhere from one to to three days, at the most five days after the fever starts,” she said.
LaRosa said people have to have prolonged exposure to or direct contact with the lesions in order to contract monkeypox. People can also get monkeypox through contact with something that has fluid from the lesions on it.
She said the virus spreads through close contact and while not highly contagious, it can be dangerous. Deaths, however, are uncommon.
“It’s a virus, so it has to run its course with supportive treatment, but there are some antiviral medications that can be used to treat it,” LaRosa said.
Dr. Joshua Lenchus, the interim chief medical officer at Broward Health, called monkeypox “significantly less infectious” than COVID-19, but said isolation and contact tracing measures are broadly similar.
“We employ the same kind of contact tracing mechanisms and methods that we use during COVID when one is exposed to someone else and then they get that,” he said.
Experts said despite the low likelihood of spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remains on high alert.
Lenchus said while everyone should be aware, there’s no reason to panic.
“It’s extremely rare,” he said. “(It’s) something we should be alert for but nothing we should alter our lifestyle about right now.”
While the CDC notes that a significant number of cases have been among men who have sex with men, exposure is not limited to the LGBTQ community.