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Rio Grande Valley confirms 1st monkeypox case

Illustration shows test tubes labelled "Monkeypox virus positive\
DADO RUVIC
/
REUTERS
Test tubes labelled "Monkeypox virus positive" are seen in this illustration taken May 23, 2022.

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The first case of monkeypox has arrived in the Rio Grande Valley, Cameron County health officials announced Tuesday.

In a press release, Cameron County Public Health said a person who had no recent travel outside of the Rio Grande Valley tested positive for monkeypox on Aug. 16. The person received a monkeypox test at a private clinic last week.

Cameron County Health Administrator Esmeralda Guajardo said the person likely caught the virus locally. “We’re very confident, based on the information that we have, that this is a local case,” Guajardo told TPR. “There’s bound to be additional cases at some point, because it’s out in the community.”

Cameron County is currently conducting contact tracing for the case.

Last week Cameron County announced they received 100 monkeypox vaccine vials as a preventive measure against the virus. They were supposed to receive 180.

Guajardo expects vaccines to be administered as soon as the end of the day Wednesday, Aug. 17, or the next day. There are 5 doses in each of the 100 vials the county received. Persons receiving the monkeypox will receive two doses, the second four weeks after the first.

Guajardo said the county gave 40 of the vaccine vials to organizations that work with high-risk groups, which includes health workers, immunocompromised people and people identified in contact tracing. The county is keeping 40 vials and another 20 for an outbreak. More cases are likely to come, but Guajardo said the county is not expecting a wave of cases similar to COVID-19.

“It might come out to be a little out of control for a bit,” she said. “But I do think that by working together with (health) providers, working with individuals, to identify contacts, we might be able to contain it before it gets completely out of hand and there (are) mass vaccinations.”

Regardless, Guajardo is urging Rio Grande Valley residents to take the virus seriously, regardless if monkeypox has low risk of death.

“I would not recommend for people take this lightly, I don’t,” Guajardo said. “It’s not something someone wants to deal with.”

The county doesn’t plan to have press conferences on monkeypox yet, similar to the ones held last year and in 2020 on COVID-19. So far, the county is working on a plan for schools to identify and report monkeypox in students. As of Wednesday, Texas has 992 cases of monkeypox. The United States has nearly 12,700 cases, the most of anywhere else in the world.

Neighboring Hidalgo County has received 2,000 monkeypox vaccines. Hidalgo County has not confirmed a case of monkeypox.

If you think you have monkeypox and live in Cameron County, the county asks to call their hotline, (956) 247-3650, for guidance on receiving a test or care. Click here for monkeypox case updates in Cameron County.

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Gaige Davila is a reporter for Texas Public Radio's Border and Immigration Desk, working from his hometown, Port Isabel, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley.