LA County monkeypox: First case in nation linked to workplace exposure

The Los Angeles Public Health Department has reported the nation's first monkeypox case in a healthcare worker who was exposed to the virus at work. 

Very little information about the condition of the healthcare worker is known. It is also unknown how that person contracted the virus. 

"Like we say about essential workers have more exposure to COVID; they have more exposure to monkeypox just by your membership alone when in that community and therefore it really is prudent to come in and get vaccinated now," Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer during a County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. 

This information comes just days after Public Health confirmed the first death due to monkeypox in an LA County resident.

The person "was severely immunocompromised and had been hospitalized," the health department said in a statement earlier this week.

The case was only the second in the United States being investigated as a possible monkeypox death. Texas previously reported a death involving a monkeypox patient.

Dr. Rita Singhal, chief medical officer for the county health department, said last week that, worldwide, there have been "seven confirmed deaths among monkeypox cases in non-endemic countries."

As of Thursday, there were 1,805 confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox identified in the county, the vast majority of them involving gay men.

The health department urged people who are severely immunocompromised and who suspect they have monkeypox to seek medical care and treatment early and remain under the care of a provider during their illness.

Monkeypox is generally spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact, resulting from infectious rashes and scabs, though respiratory secretions and bodily fluids exchanged during extended physical episodes, such as sexual intercourse, can also lead to transmission, according to the CDC.

It can also be transmitted through the sharing of items such as bedding and towels.

Symptoms include fresh pimples, blisters, rashes, fever and fatigue. There is no specific treatment. People who have been infected with smallpox, or have been vaccinated for it, may have immunity to monkeypox.

According to health officials, the vaccine can prevent infection if given before or shortly after exposure to the virus.

At this time, healthcare workers are not eligible for the vaccine. Dr. Singhal said although the most recent case involves a healthcare worker, it is rare for this to happen and accounts for 1 of 8 cases worldwide. She said using PPE in healthcare settings should suffice.

More information is available online at

City News Service contributed to this report