New York is investigating a possible case of monkeypox – but how much of a threat is it?

New York is investigating a possible case of monkeypox - but how much of a threat is it?
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The past week has been busy for New York health officials as subvariants of the coronavirus have once again pushed New York City into high levels of risk for COVID-19 transmission, the flu has returned and a lesser known (albeit old) health problem has emerged – monkeypox.

The New York State Department of Health on Friday released information about two possible cases of monkeypox that were under investigation in New York – this after the United States saw its first case on Wednesday confirmed in a Massachusetts resident.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Public Health Laboratory ruled out monkeypox in one case after testing samples, while the other tested positive for orthopoxvirus, the family virus to which monkeypox belongs. The state is awaiting official confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is tracing contacts for the case.

Monkeypox is similar to smallpox in that it causes lesions all over the body and can lead to serious illness. 1 in 10 people who contracted it in Africa have died, according to the CDC.

This particular smallpox virus was first discovered in the late 1950s in Africa and was named after the laboratory monkeys from which the virus is believed to have originated. The first human case was discovered in 1970.

The first time monkeypox was reported outside of Africa was in 2003, when there were 47 confirmed and probable cases in the United States after patients came into contact with dogs from companion meadow; the prairie dogs appeared to have contracted the virus from being housed near small mammals imported from Ghana.

Monkeypox has since been discovered in the United States; there were two cases last year, but both patients had recently traveled from Nigeria. State health officials said people are often exposed to monkeypox directly through bites or scratches from rodents and small mammals, by preparing wild game, or by being in contact with an infected animal or possibly food. animal products. “Based on previous outbreaks, the virus generally does not spread easily between people,” the state health department said.

But in the case of Massachusetts last week, the person came from Canada. Additionally, the CDC said it was tracking several clusters of monkeypox that were reported in early to mid-May in several countries that don’t normally report monkeypox, including Europe.

So is monkeypox something to worry about?

“Based on the limited information available at this time, the risk to the general public appears low,” the state health department said Friday.

Monkeypox is considered a rare virus, and although it can be spread through respiratory droplets, contracting it requires very close contact with an infected person for an extended period of time – as opposed to the more casual way of many viruses – including the coronavirus – are spreading. It can also be transmitted by close skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, which increases the likelihood that it will not spread by chance.

Still, the CDC urges healthcare providers in the United States to be alert to patients who have rashes consistent with monkeypox, whether or not they have traveled. New Yorkers who suffer from a flu-like illness with swollen lymph nodes
and rashes on the face and body should contact their health care provider, state health officials say — particularly if they have been in close contact with someone who has similar symptoms or who has traveled.

“Reports of suspected cases of monkeypox in the United States and elsewhere are concerning,” state health commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. “While a possible case in New York State awaits confirmatory testing by our local and federal partners, the department has alerted New York State health care providers so they can consider this unusual diagnosis if their patients have symptoms.”

Last week, the state Department of Health also issued an alert about the spread of the flu virus. While cases increased by 25% in the first week of May, this week’s data the release ending May 14 again showed a slight decline.

The flu was almost non-existent in New York during the 2020-2021 season as coronavirus protocols limited the spread. The flu spiked in December, but after waning it began to return in mid-February — around the time mask mandates were lifted in New York. The State Department of Health posted a review on Wednesday to public and private schools “to remind administrators to contact their local health department if they observe an increase in school absences resulting from flu-like illness (fever with cough or sore throat) or confirmed flu outbreaks”.

But what do coronavirus, influenza and monkeypox have in common? All of the state health threat statements last week noted one thing: Indoor masking could limit all viruses.

“Masks can protect against monkeypox, as well as other viruses circulating in New York City, such as COVID-19,” the city’s health department said in a statement Friday. “The department continues to recommend masks in indoor public places.”

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