FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE/KSEE) – Fresno County health officials announced the first case of monkeypox identified in the county on Monday. It comes after Tulare County announced its first case last week.

But this is not the first time the health officials have heard of monkeypox.

“Monkeypox is not a new virus, it’s been around for 50 years,” said Dr. Geetha Sivasubramanian, an infectious disease expert with UCSF Fresno. She says the way the monkeypox virus transmits is primarily through close contact.

“It needs a lot of close contact for transmission to happen, so it does not spread as quickly as a viral infection like COVID does,” she said.

That includes, kissing, hugging, sexual activities and touching the infected area. Although the virus itself is not new – what is new is how many cases there are. California has 250 cases confirmed; nationwide there are around 2,000 confirmed cases.

“It’s very common in Central Africa, West Africa with there being thousands of outbreaks over the last several years. What’s different this year is we are seeing large number of cases outside of Africa, which we haven’t seen before,” said Dr. Sivasubramanian.

Although the fatality rate for monkeypox is low, its early symptoms are just like other common viruses.

“It’s very close to smallpox, but it’s a lot – lot milder than what smallpox would be,” she said.

Two vaccines are available for monkeypox, but they are only for those considered to be high risk for the virus and have been in contact with an infected individual.

We tried to contact the Fresno County Public Health department to ask if the vaccine is available in the county, they did not get back to us in time for this report.