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State reports possible cases of monkeypox

The first possible cases of monkeypox have been reported in Ohio - one in Putnam County and the other in Butler County, the state department of health said yesterday.

The Putnam County resident - a woman described as a “probable” case who is undergoing testing for confirmation - has recovered fully, the department said.

The Butler County resident, described as a less serious “suspect” case, is expected to recover fully at home.

Officials would not release the names of the patients, citing patient confidentiality. Neither was hospitalized.

“We hope to get confirmation later this month,” Jay Carey, a health department spokesman, said.

Both Ohio cases were discovered by tracing purchases from Phil's Pocket Pets, an exotic pet store based in Villa Park, Ill., according to the health department.

The Putnam County resident purchased a prairie dog, while the Butler County resident purchased a wallaby.

Phil's Pocket Pets, also a source of monkeypox-infected pets sent to other states, is under quarantine by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, whose Ohio counterpart is the lead agency in tracing potential monkeypox cases in Ohio.

“People need to be very careful when purchasing exotic pets,” said Dr. David Woodruff, Putnam County health commissioner. “Even if pet store owners say it's OK, exotic pets can very easily carry viral infections.”

Monkeypox is a rare viral disease that occurs mostly in central and western Africa.

It is called “monkeypox” because it was first discovered in laboratory monkeys, and belongs to a group of viruses that include the smallpox and the cowpox viruses. Monkeypox was reported in humans for the first time in 1970. There is no specific treatment for monkeypox.

“We do not believe the general public is at risk for monkeypox infection,” Dr. J. Nick Baird, director of the state health department, said. “The disease has a low rate of transmission from person to person.”

Dr. Woodruff agreed. “You'd practically have to be rubbing up against someone for a long time for there to be any risk,” he said.

Monkeypox can be transmitted from human to human only through the transfer of bodily fluids, or prolonged face-to-face contact. The most common hosts for the disease are small, exotic animals, such as prairie dogs and African rodents. People can catch monkeypox from the animals if they are bitten, or if they touch the animals' blood, bodily fluids, or the rash associated with the illness.

Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, cough, shortness of breath, headache, backache, sore throat, rash, and swollen lymph nodes.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta classifies a “probable” human case of monkeypox as a person who has been exposed to an exotic pet, and also has a rash along with two or more of the other symptoms.

As of yesterday, U.S. health officials had confirmed a total of 12 human cases of the disease in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois. Also, 54 possible cases had been reported.

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