Island County remains free of monkeypox for now, according to county health officials.
County Health Officer Howard Leibrand said the county is not aware of any diagnosed cases yet, though with Seattle a little more than a ferry ride away, it is not impossible that a traveler or commuter could bring it back to Whidbey. King County reported 122 known cases as of Monday, out of 123 total cases in the state of Washington reported by the CDC the same day.
While the advent of a new illness may be sparking flashbacks to early 2020 and the onset of the coronavirus, Leibrand said one significant advantage health officials have battling monkeypox as opposed to COVID-19 is that there is no asymptomatic spread of monkeypox. Unlike with coronavirus, everyone who has monkeypox displays symptoms.
Should monkeypox arrive in Island County, the county will be able to request vaccines from the state, Leibrand said. Washington has enough doses of the vaccine to meet the current need, which at this point means inoculating those who have been in contact with known cases.
Leibrand said monkeypox is unlikely to be transmitted by casual contact. Close contact, such as with people in one’s household, is more likely to facilitate spread.
Though most of the transmission so far has taken place among the gay male community, Leibrand said, it is important that people understand they can still contract monkeypox even if they are not part of that community.
“What we don’t want to happen is for people to think that it’s a sexually transmitted disease or to point fingers at a group and blame them for this, because it’s not a sexually transmitted disease,” he said.