The United States has identified 20 confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox in 11 states as public health authorities increase testing in a bid to isolate patients and prevent the virus from spreading in communities, the Centers say. for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, a CDC official, said the overall health risk to the public remains low at this time. Most U.S. patients had international travel histories and it’s likely they caught the virus overseas, but the virus could spread domestically, McQuiston said.
“There could be community-level transmission, and that’s why we really want to increase our surveillance efforts,” McQuiston told reporters in a call Friday. “We really want to encourage doctors to say that if they see a rash and they’re worried it’s monkeypox, they should go ahead and test that,” she said.
However, there seems to be a higher risk for gay and bisexual men at this time. Of the 17 patients who provided detailed information to the CDC, 16 identified themselves as men who have had sex with men, McQuiston said. Anyone can catch monkeypox through close physical contact, and the CDC is closing case surveillance in all clusters in the United States. However, public health authorities are working to educate the LGBTQ community, McQuiston said.
“Our priority is to help everyone make informed decisions to protect their health and that of their science-led community,” she said.
No deaths from monkeypox have been reported in the current outbreak in the United States or Europe, McQuiston said. All of the patients are recovering or have already recovered, she said. The West African strain of monkeypox is behind the current outbreak, which is less severe than the other strain known as the Congo Basin, according to the CDC.
Fourteen of the 17 patients who provided detailed information had international travel histories to 11 different countries in the 21 days prior to symptom onset, according to the CDC. The other three patients either had contact with known cases or don’t know how they caught the virus, McQuiston said.
Current outbreaks of monkeypox are unusual in that they occur in countries in North America and Europe where the virus is not usually present. Monkeypox infections normally occur in remote areas of West and Central Africa, where the virus often spreads from rodents to humans.
The World Health Organization has identified more than 550 monkeypox infections in 30 countries, with most cases reported in European countries. The sudden appearance of monkeypox cases in several countries indicates that the virus has been spreading undetected for some time outside West and Central Africa, WHO Director-General Tedros said on Wednesday. Adhanom Ghebreyesus, during a press conference in Geneva.
Some cases of monkeypox in the United States may have gone undetected, McQuiston said, but the CDC does not believe the virus has circulated widely nationally.
The CDC said people with confirmed or suspected monkeypox infections self-isolate at home until local or state health departments direct otherwise. People with confirmed infections should remain isolated until the skin lesions that characterize the disease have completely resolved, the scabs have fallen off, and a new layer of skin has formed.
Monkeypox usually begins with flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, exhaustion, and swollen lymph nodes. Lesions then form on the body and the virus spreads mainly through skin-to-skin contact with these lesions. In eight cases in the United States, the rash first developed on the genitals or the area around the anus. Monkeypox can be spread through respiratory droplets if a person has sores in their throat or mouth, but it is not easily transmitted that way.
“The rash caused by the monkeypox virus can spread widely throughout the body or present in sensitive areas like the genitals. It can be very painful and some patients have reported needing painkillers on prescription to manage that pain,” McQuiston said.
People exposed to monkeypox should watch for symptoms for 21 days, according to the CDC. They should check their temperature twice a day and watch for chills, swollen lymph nodes and new rashes. If a fever or rash develops, the person should self-isolate and contact the local health department immediately.
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