The first case of monkeypox in El Paso County — a female in her 50s — was confirmed Friday afternoon by public health officials.

The announcement came weeks after the county received its first shipment of Jynneos, the vaccine used to prevent the disease after exposure.

The person with monkeypox is recovering at home while the city’s epidemiology team is working to identify and notify close contacts. Any close contacts will be offered the vaccine, officials said

“Monkeypox continues to be a global threat and for this reason, we strongly recommend everyone continue practicing safety precautions to keep themselves and their family, especially our most vulnerable loved ones, safe from all diseases, whether it is COVID, Monkeypox, or the flu,” county health authority Dr. Hector Ocaranza said in a press release. 

Monkeypox is a viral disease similar to smallpox and is transmitted most often by skin-to-skin contact. While rarely fatal, monkeypox can cause painful lesions on the face and body that take two to four weeks to heal. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people with monkeypox to isolate at home until the scabs fall off and a new layer of skin has formed.

Prior to this case, the Texas Department of Health Services erroneously reported the first case of monkeypox in the West Texas region, according to the press release. The patient, a male in his 30s, is a former El Paso resident but left the area more than a year ago and lives on the East Coast.

The CDC has confirmed more than 11,000 cases of monkeypox in the United States, including 815 in Texas.

While U.S. health experts say monkeypox is unlikely to become a pandemic as devastating as COVID-19, the window for containing the disease is closing because of lack of testing and a limited supply of vaccines that does not meet demand.

Monkeypox is transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal. The virus can spread through contact with infected lesions, bodily fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials, such as towels and bed sheets. The majority of cases so far have circulated among men who have sex with men, but monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease and anyone — regardless of age, gender or sexuality — can get the disease.

The CDC recommends that people with an unexplained rash see a doctor about getting tested for monkeypox and in the meantime, avoid gatherings and being intimate with anyone.

El Pasoans can protect themselves from the virus by avoiding close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox, by not handling objects that someone with monkeypox used and through frequent hand washing.

Priscilla Totiyapungprasert is a health reporter at El Paso Matters and Report for America corp member. She previously covered food and environment at The Arizona Republic. You can follow her on social...