First case of monkeypox reported in Whatcom County

The Whatcom County Health Department on Wednesday said it was investigating the county's first confirmed case of monkeypox.

According to the health department, a person in their 50s tested positive on Tuesday. That person was isolation at home.

While the initial Washington cases were linked to international travel, health officials believe this case is linked to exposure in King County.

"It is important for people to know that risk to the general public remains low," said Amy Harley, Co-Health Officer for the Whatcom County Health Department. "We have been preparing for the possibility of MPV in Whatcom County for the last few months. The US has successfully controlled outbreaks of MPV in the past. This virus is not spread as easily as COVID-19 and we already have vaccines and treatments available."

The health department said it was working to identify anyone who may have come into close contact of the county's first case.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said there were 123 monkeypox cases in Washington state as of Aug. 2. Oregon reported 74 cases, California 826 cases and just 5 cases in Idaho.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said last week the expanding monkeypox outbreak in more than 70 countries is an "extraordinary" situation that now qualifies as a global emergency, a declaration that could spur further investment in treating the once-rare disease and worsen the scramble for scarce vaccines.

Infectious individuals should isolate and avoid gatherings involving close, physical contact, while people should get contact details for any new sexual partners in case they need to follow up later, the WHO said.

The CDC has not suggested that men who have sex with men reduce their sexual partners, only that they avoid skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that could be monkeypox.

RELATED: Monkeypox outbreak needs 'hard and fast' response

WHO officials emphasized that monkeypox can infect anyone in close contact with a patient or their contaminated clothing or bedsheets. The U.N. health agency has warned that the disease could be more severe in vulnerable populations like children or pregnant women.

To date, more than 19,000 cases have been reported in more than 75 countries; deaths have only been reported in Africa.

"We know very clearly that one of the main modes of exposure for this particular illness is through direct contact, close contact, skin to skin contact, possibly even face to face contact, exposure to droplets or virus that may be in the mouth," Dr. Rosamund Lewis, WHO’s technical lead for monkeypox, said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.