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What you need to know about monkeypox in Florida

Although there is one presumptive case of monkeypox in South Florida, health experts say the risk of exposure is low.

TAMPA, Fla. — Health officials in South Florida are investigating one "presumptive" case of monkeypox.

The case appears to be related to international travel and the risk of exposure is low, according to the Florida Department of Health. Still, people may still be wondering: What is monkeypox and how did it spread to the U.S.?

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a virus that originates in wild animals like rodents and primates and occasionally jumps to people. Most human cases have been in central and west Africa, where the disease is endemic. 

Monkeypox is rarely identified outside of Africa, but as of Friday, there were 80 confirmed cases worldwide, including at least two in the United States, and another 50 suspected ones.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, monkeypox begins with:

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

Then within one to three days, a rash develops, often beginning on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body, the CDC says. The lesions typically progress through stages before healing.

The illness usually lasts from two to four weeks, according to the agency.

Is monkeypox deadly?

"In Africa, monkeypox has been shown to cause death in as many as 1 in 10 persons who contract the disease," the CDC wrote on its website. The World Health Organization says, in recent times, the case fatality ratio has been around 3-6%.

How does it spread?

The CDC says human-to-human monkeypox transmission occurs through contact with lesions or items that have been contaminated by lesions, like clothing or linens. It can also spread through large respiratory droplets that travel with prolonged face-to-face contact, according to the agency.

Has there ever been an outbreak in the US?

There were two isolated cases of monkeypox in 2021 in the U.S., both in people who had recently returned from Nigeria.

However, in 2003, there were 47 confirmed and probable cases of monkeypox reported in six states: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. 

Health experts say this was the first time human monkeypox was reported outside of Africa. All the people infected with monkeypox in the 2003 outbreak, according to the CDC, became ill after having contact with pet prairie dogs that had come in contact with imported small mammals from Ghana.

You can read more about monkeypox treatment and prevention here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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