US public health officials are monitoring a handful of monkeypox infections that appear to be travel-related and have warned gay and bisexual men to be on alert for possible symptoms.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Dr. John Brooks, a medical epidemiologist with the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said anyone can catching monkeypox, but that right now it seems to be “circulating around the world in parts of the gay community.
In the United States, five possible cases have been reported.
The first case, which has been confirmed, involves a man from Massachusetts who recently traveled to Canada, where five cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in Quebec, reports the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Canadian health authorities are also continuing to investigate “a few dozen” possible cases across the country, including several in the Montreal area.
Of the remaining four suspected cases of monkeypox in the United States, two have been reported in Utah, one case has been reported in New York and one case in Florida. All four cases were reported in men, who the CDC says were exposed to the virus while visiting other countries.
Capt. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology at the CDC, also said health officials are following up more than 200 contacts related to the Massachusetts case, most of whom are health workers. health.
McQuiston noted during the CDC briefing that there is no evidence to suggest the number of infections — 92 confirmed cases, along with more than two dozen additional suspected cases in 12 different countries — points to a new strain or more. virulent of the virus.
McQuiston said sequence data from Massachusetts cases matches sequence data from people infected in Portugal, where the number of confirmed cases has risen to 23, and is closely linked to the West African strain of monkeypox.
The West African strain is less severe than the Central African strain of the virus, with infected people generally recovering “in two to four weeks without specific treatment”, she said.
Monkeypox is usually spread through close personal contact with an infected person, often through contact with an active rash, respiratory droplets, or bodily fluids from an infected patient, or in some cases through contact with bedding or clothing of an infected person.
The disease causes a rash with skin lesions, flu-like symptoms, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. It is rarely life-threatening, although complications can occur if lesions develop on certain parts of the body or if swollen lymph nodes compromise a person’s breathing.
McQuiston said there are smallpox vaccines that can help protect people against monkeypox infection, which are being prepared for distribution, according to US News and World Report.
“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 might be at high risk of serious illness.”
CDC officials said there are smallpox antiviral drugs that could be used to treat severe cases of monkeypox. A drug, tecovirimat, also known as TPOXX, has previously been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration to treat monkeypox in cases where patients have life-threatening conditions or serious illnesses and are no other treatment options are available.
The CDC is working to get similar emergency access approval for a second smallpox drug, brincidofovir, according to CDC poxvirus and rabies branch physician Dr. Brett Petersen.
Since many of those infected with monkeypox in this latest outbreak were men who have sex with men, public health officials are warning LGBTQ organizations and media to warn gay and bisexual men, especially particular, of the potential risk at a time when Pride festivities are being held around the world.
Dr David Heymann, chairman of the World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee, told reporters that WHO researchers had traced cases of monkeypox in Spain and Germany to sexual activity resulting from events LGBTQ, including a Gay Pride celebration in Spain’s Canary Islands and the Darklands Festival, a large-scale fetish festival held in Antwerp, Belgium, reports the New York Post.
“We know monkeypox can be spread through close contact with an infected person’s lesions,” Heymann said. “And it appears sexual contact has now amplified that transmission.”
Meanwhile, according to ReutersSpanish health authorities have also traced several suspected cases to a sauna in Madrid, which has since been closed by the government to reduce potential spread.
However, public health officials are do not recommend shutdowns or postponements of major events at this time.
Instead, they recommend people who develop rashes or other symptoms avoid contact with others to reduce the risk of transmission.
Gay men should “be aware that if you’re feeling sick and have a rash, it may be time to take a step back” before attending large-scale gatherings, Brooks said during of the CDC briefing.
“And if, after an event, you find that you have developed symptoms or a rash suspicious of possible monkeypox, seek an evaluation.”