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13News Now Vault: America's first monkeypox outbreak was in 2003

WVEC-TV Norfolk logo WVEC-TV Norfolk 8/5/2022 Philip Townsend

Monkeypox was declared a public health emergency in the U.S. on Thursday, as health officials fight to keep the spread of the virus under control.

More than 7,000 cases have been reported – more than 100 of them were reported in Virginia and only 17 are in the Hampton Roads region.

Unlike COVID-19, monkeypox isn’t airborne, but spreads through close contact with someone infected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still gathering information about the virus because it’s not something we’re used to seeing. In fact, there has only been one other outbreak in the U.S., and the way it spread is different than what we’re seeing today.

It was back in the spring and summer of 2003. At that time, 47 cases of monkeypox were reported in six states: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

In every single case, the patient became sick after close contact with prairie dogs.

Investigators determined that a shipment of rodents from Ghana started the spread after they were housed near prairie dogs that eventually became pets.

Unlike the current outbreak, not one case in 2003 was attributed to person-to-person contact.

But similar to today, public health departments used vaccines to contain the spread in 2003.

While anyone can get monkeypox, infection usually happens after close, prolonged physical contact with someone.

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