Alaska’s first monkeypox case recorded in Anchorage

A microscope image of gray oval shapes
This electron microscope image shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virions (left) and spherical immature virions (right) obtained from a sample of human skin associated with a 2003 prairie dog outbreak. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith/CDC)

Alaska has recorded its first case of monkeypox. 

State and city health officials announced the infection in a statement on Friday.

Anchorage Health Department officials say the person who tested positive is an Anchorage resident and is isolating at home. Officials say the person did not require hospitalization, and was a close contact of a person who recently traveled out of state. 

Monkeypox has been circulating globally and the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a public health emergency last weekend.

Anchorage medical officer Dr. Brian Piltz says the viral disease is spread through close contact. 

“So you have to have prolonged skin-to-skin contact, or have contact with clothing or bedding that a person with the disease has been in contact with,” Piltz said.

Monkeypox produces fever, muscle aches and chills and can lead to a rash resembling pus-filled blisters

“It’s primarily a rash and the chances of dying from it are very low,” Piltz said. “But it’s not zero.”

Piltz says the rash typically lasts about a month. 

There is currently a vaccine for monkeypox, but Piltz says there’s a limited supply in the city and state.

“Here at the Anchorage Health Department, we have 18 doses,” Piltz said.

Vaccines will be prioritized for people who are in close contact with a positive monkeypox case. Vaccines are not recommended for the general public, health officials say. 

While anyone can contract or spread monkeypox, officials say most cases have occurred among gay and bisexual men. 

“It is important for people who might be at increased risk for exposure to be aware of how to prevent transmission and what signs and symptoms to look for,” said state chief epidemiologist Dr. Joe McLaughlin.

If you have symptoms or a known exposure to monkeypox, McLaughlin said it’s important to reach out to a health care provider immediately and isolate yourself from others. He’s also urging health care providers to test liberally, even in cases where they think monkeypox is unlikely.

As of Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control says roughly 4,900 positive monkeypox cases have been detected across 46 other states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.

This story has been updated.

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org.