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County identifies additional monkeypox case

A third monkeypox case has been identified in San Diego County, health officials announced Friday afternoon, though none of the three has yet been confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new case has no connection to the first two announced Wednesday, other than recent international travel and the fact that symptoms are mild and have not required hospitalization.

In a statement, Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health director, said that all three are “managing their symptoms in home isolation.”

“Most individuals who become infected experience mild to moderate symptoms, and the risk of contracting the virus remains very low for the general population,” Wooten said.

The news came as UC San Diego and partners updated estimates of the amount of coronavirus detected in local wastewater. The shape of the graph continued to be flat, with an estimated 6.7 million coronavirus copies detected per liter of sewage Wednesday nearly identical to the 6.9 million copies documented one week earlier but far, far lower than the peak of 47.6 million recorded on Jan. 10 at the peak of the winter Omicron wave.

Weekly case totals roughly reflect the plateau seen in wastewater analysis, with 1,773 new cases reported to the public health department Wednesday, just slightly lower than the 1,857 reported one week earlier.

Monkeypox is much less contagious than coronavirus because it mainly spreads through direct skin-to-skin contact with another person. While the virus can spread through the air, it is much less likely and requires a much longer period of close contact than coronavirus does.

Risk assessment guidelines published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider a “high” level of exposure to include anyone who had unprotected contact with an infected person’s skin, mucous membranes, or bodily fluids. The CDC considers a high level of exposure through the air to be possible in situations where people are within 6 feet of a person during medical procedures that cause large amounts of bodily fluids to enter the air in an enclosed space and others are not protected by N-95 masks.

An intermediate degree of exposure is calculated for those who spent at least three hours within six feet of an infected person without wearing at least a surgical mask, meaning that those who simply shared the same space for a few minutes or even two solid hours have very low chances of becoming infected.

By comparison, the original estimate for the first few waves of the coronavirus held that it took about 15 minutes sitting and talking with an infected person to become infected, and estimates of Omicron variant transmission are quicker still.

A county spokesperson said Thursday that public health investigations learned of two people who had contact with one of the two monkeypox patients announced Wednesday, though it was not clear which CDC risk level their exposures fell into. No information was available Friday regarding contacts of the third patient announced Friday.

As of Friday, the United States has documented 113 monkeypox cases, including 24 in California.



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