Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani. Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Connecticut’s public health commissioner downplayed the risk of monkeypox infections to the general public Tuesday after the state reported its first case of the virus that has now been recorded in 33 states.

The Public Health Department reported the virus had been confirmed in a New Haven County man in his 40s. As of Tuesday, the man was not hospitalized and was self-isolating.

Following an unrelated event in Waterbury, Public Health Commissioner Manisha Juthani told reporters that the virus, which is spread by close physical contact to exposed lesions, posed little risk to the general public.

“The clear message right now is the risk to the general public is pretty low,” Juthani said. “We do need to be alert and aware. I know a lot of people are tired of hearing about viruses. They’re tired of hearing about a new virus. But what we do know right now is that in the setting of COVID people were socially distanced for a long period of time and there are a number of viruses that are coming back.” 

Monkeypox infections are rarely fatal and usually last between two and four weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infections are typically marked by rashes that can appear similar to pimples or blisters on various parts of the body. Other symptoms include fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and chills.

As of Tuesday, the CDC had reported 556 cases nationwide with infections in 33 states and also both Puerto Rico and Washington D.C.

Although a vaccine for the virus exists, it is not widely available. Juthani said Connecticut would prioritize monkeypox vaccines for health care workers and people who have been directly exposed to the virus.

“We have a vaccine that is able to protect people from it and we in Connecticut are able to get vaccines for people who are doing the testing and also for exposures, for people who have had close personal exposure to an identified case. That is what we’re doing. We are vaccinating people who have had that kind of exposure,” Juthani said. 

In a press release, the Public Health Department urged Connecticut residents concerned about new rashes, fever, or swollen glands to contact their doctor for evaluation.