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SAN DIEGO — San Diego County health officials have identified two “probable” cases of monkeypox in the region, marking the first known appearance of the virus in the area.

The cases still need to be formally verified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the County Health and Human Services Agency said in a news release.

“The two cases are unrelated to each other, but both individuals recently traveled internationally,” wrote Katie Cadiao, a county spokesperson. “Although symptomatic, they are doing well and are not hospitalized. Both individuals are isolated from others.”

Monkeypox is a viral infection that spreads through contact with body fluids, sores on the body of someone who already has the virus, and shared items like clothing and bedding. While it is not generally considered a sexually transmitted disease, it can be spread through sex by skin-to-skin contact, and that is believed to be a factor in some current European cases.

The virus, and images of the unsightly sores it can cause, has captured widespread attention as an outbreak spreads globally and the first cases in the U.S. have been announced.

It is not a new virus, and many recent cases have been reported in western and central African countries where monkeypox is considered common. But monkeypox has also spread to countries where it is not endemic, including Britain, Canada, Italy, Poland, Spain and the U.S.

With the public weary from several years of the coronavirus pandemic, experts have tried to ease concerns that monkeypox could be “the next COVID-19.”

Early evidence indicates that outbreaks are not developing as rapidly as those of the coronavirus. Monkeypox is not known to linger in the air over time and is not transmitted during short periods of shared airspace, according to the Health and Human Services Agency.

“It is not acting in a way like a disease that spreads through respiratory droplets or airborne dominantly does,” said Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, in a recent media briefing.

“So it’s not acting like influenza or COVID or chickenpox or measles – things that spread quickly in an unvaccinated community. It is acting more like a disease that is spreading by close contact.”

According to county health officials, symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion

A rash usually develops within one to three days after the appearance of a fever, spreading from the face to other parts of the body, the Health and Human Services Agency explained. Typically, people develop symptoms within a week or two of exposure.

Most people who become infected with monkeypox “have a mild illness that improves without treatment over 2 to 4 weeks,” the county said.

Anyone who thinks they have the virus should contact a health care provider right away. You can learn more here.

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that it was aware of 72 deaths related to monkeypox this year, though none came from newly affected countries like the U.S.

The ongoing outbreak in Europe and elsewhere marks the first time the disease has been known to spread among people who have no travel links to Africa, the Associated Press reports.