‘The risk to the general public is low:’ BFHD investigating potential first case of monkeypox in Eastern WA

UPDATE at 9:45 a.m. on July 22: Health officials in Tri-Cities believe that a Benton County man in his 50s has the first confirmed case of monkeypox on the east side of Washington state.

Dr. Amy Person, the Health Officer at the Benton-Franklin Health District, says the patient returned a positive test for the orthopoxvirus. Further testing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will confirm whether he has the monkeypox virus—though all signs point to it at this stage.

“Individuals who have tested positive for orthopoxvirus are presumed to have monkeypox because the only other orthopoxvirus that testing is available for is smallpox which we know has been eradicated,” Dr. Person said.

BFHD staff will cooperate with the patient and healthcare providers to identify close contacts. He is currently in isolation, meaning he doesn’t pose a danger to other Benton County community members.

The patient did not travel internationally leading up to this point, meaning the disease was contracted domestically.

Monkeypox cases were first detected in Washington state at the end of May 2022.

“What’s unique about this current outbreak is that we are seeing it in parts of the world where monkeypox is usually not found,” Dr. Person said.

Currently, Benton County health leaders do not recommend monkeypox vaccines for the general public as the risk of receiving the disease is not high.

“Despite the news of multiple cases nationwide, monkeypox is still a very rare disease in the United States. While the risk is low, it is important to be aware and seek care if you have symptoms or have had close skin-to-skin contact with someone who may have monkeypox,” Dr. Person said. “With sexually transmitted infections that can cause rashes, we encourage our medical providers to test widely for all of those types of illnesses as they may occur simultaneously.”

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Health officials in Benton and Franklin counties are observing the first possible case of monkeypox reported in Eastern Washington.

Details are limited at this stage, but KAPP-KVEW plans to attend the Benton-Franklin Health District press conference on the morning of Friday, July 22 to obtain more details.

Currently, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has recorded 51 cases in King County, two in each of Snohomish and Pierce counties, and another in a non-resident of the state. Up to this point, there were no signs of Monkeypox being detected in Eastern Washington.


Below is a description of the disease as published by state health leaders:

Monkeypox is a viral disease that can cause rashes and other symptoms. It does not commonly occur in the US, but there is currently an outbreak of monkeypox with cases spreading in Washington state and across the country, as well as in many other countries. Many of the current cases are occurring in men who have sex with men, although monkeypox can spread person-to-person with any kind of close, skin-to-skin contact.

Generally, monkeypox spreads through direct contact with a symptomatic individual via skin or bodily fluid. It can also be spread through contact with contaminated objects or respiratory droplets, the DOH says.

Like with most viral diseases, the populations who are at the highest risk of serious illness or life-threatening symptoms are the immunocompromised and children under the age of eight. Other risk factors include a history of eczema and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, WA DOH officials say.

However, no one in the United States has died from this Monkeypox outbreak and DOH officials say more than 99% of people who contract this strain of the disease survive.


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