By Dennis Thompson Health Day Reporter
MONDAY, May 23, 2022 (HealthDay News) — At a press conference Monday, U.S. public health officials said they are tracking a handful of travel-related cases of monkeypox that have been reported across the country.
Anyone can get monkeypox, but right now it seems to be “circulating around the world in parts of the gay community”, said Dr John Brooks, a medical epidemiologist with the Prevention Division. of HIV/AIDS from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. during the briefing.
Contact tracing is underway for the first confirmed case, a Massachusetts man who recently traveled to Canada, added Capt. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology.
Four other suspected cases of monkeypox have also been reported in various parts of the United States, McQuiston said – one in New York, one in Florida and two in Utah.
All of the reported cases are in men who the CDC says were exposed to the virus while visiting other countries.
Monkeypox causes a rash with skin lesions, and it can be concentrated on certain parts of the body or spread more widely across the body, McQuiston said during the briefing. It starts with flu-like symptoms like fever and swollen lymph nodes.
The disease is very rarely fatal.
“The strain in the identified cases, both in the United States and globally, is the West African strain, which is the milder of the two strains of monkeypox virus,” McQuiston said. “Most people infected with monkeypox recover in two to four weeks without specific treatment.”
A person could catch monkeypox if they come into contact with an active rash, respiratory droplets or bodily fluids from an infected patient, Brooks explained.
“Monkeypox is spread through close personal contact,” Brooks said. “Monkey pox is not a sexually transmitted infection in the typical sense, but it can be transmitted through sexual and intimate contact, as well as personal contact and sharing of bedding and clothing.”
Serious complications usually arise if the monkeypox rash spreads to certain parts of the body, McQuiston said. For example, a lesion on one eye could endanger vision and swollen lymph nodes could compromise breathing.
Effective vaccines available
There are already a few smallpox vaccines that can help protect people against monkeypox infection, CDC experts noted, and they are being prepared for distribution. Fears of a possible smallpox outbreak prompted the U.S. federal government to stockpile large quantities of these vaccines, McQuiston said.
“At this time, we hope to maximize the distribution of vaccines to those who we know would benefit,” she said. “So these are people who have been in contact with a known monkeypox patient, healthcare workers, very close personal contacts and those in particular who may be at high risk of serious illness. I can report that there There was a request to release the Jynneos vaccine from the national stockpile for some of the high-risk contacts of some of the early patients, so that’s actively happening right now.
Public health officials are tracking more than 200 contacts linked to the first case in Massachusetts, McQuiston said. Most of these contacts are healthcare workers.
There are also smallpox antiviral drugs that could be used to treat severe cases of monkeypox if needed, added CDC Poxvirus and Rabies branch physician Dr. Brett Petersen.
One, tecovirimat, has already expanded US Food and Drug Administration clearance to treat monkeypox, Petersen said. The CDC is working to get similar emergency access approval for a new smallpox drug, brincidofovir.
No need to panic, just empower
Gay Pride Week kicks off next Friday, Brooks said, and public health workers are disseminating information through the media and LGBTQ+ organizations to warn attendees of upcoming events about this outbreak.
“I don’t think at this time there is enough evidence that the spread of the spread is happening so quickly that we want to stop any event or recommend that it be postponed,” Brooks said. “Rather, what we want to do is allow people to take the initiative to hold themselves back from participating if they feel sick and see an assessment.”
Gay men attending Pride events should “be aware that if you’re feeling sick and you have a rash, it might be time to take a step back,” Brooks said. “And if, after an event, you find that you have developed symptoms or a rash suspicious of possible monkeypox, seek an evaluation.”
On Saturday, 92 confirmed cases of the disease and 28 other suspected cases were reported in 12 countries, according to the World Health Organization.
France, Germany, Belgium and Australia confirmed their first cases on Friday, the Associated Press reported.
“I am stunned by this. Every day I wake up and there are more countries infected,” said virologist Oyewale Tomori, who sits on several World Health Organization advisory boards.
“This is not the kind of spread we have seen in West Africa, so there may be something new happening in the West,” he told the PA.
There is currently no evidence that the monkeypox spreading around the world represents a new or more dangerous strain of the virus, McQuiston said.
“All the evidence we have to date suggests that the monkeypox virus circulating in these communities is closely related to the monkeypox viruses we have seen circulating in West Africa over the past few years,” McQuiston said. “The sequence data we have from the Massachusetts case, which matches the sequence data from the Portugal case, shows that it is very closely related to the viruses we have seen in West Africa.”
The virus was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a smallpox-like disease occurred in monkeys. The first known human case occurred in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it has since been reported in humans in other central and west African countries, according to the CDC.
Although it does not occur naturally in the United States, this is not the first time monkeypox has been seen in the country. A 2003 outbreak was linked to infected prairie dogs being imported as pets.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention know more about monkeypox.
SOURCES: Captain Jennifer McQuiston, DVM, deputy director, Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; John Brooks, MD, medical epidemiologist, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, CDC; Brett Petersen, MD, physician, Poxvirus and Rabies Branch, CDC; Associated Press
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