According to the CDC, there are currently one confirmed and four suspected cases of monkeypox virus – a rare disease closely related to smallpox – in the US.
There are two strains of the virus: one from Central Africa and the other from West Africa, which is less serious. The West African strain was responsible for the recent cases of monkeypox. A confirmed case in the US is linked to a man living in Massachusetts who had recently travelled to Canada.
Four suspected cases – one in Florida, one in New York and two in Utah – were all found in males. They tested positive for orthopox, a member of a family of viruses that includes monkeypox and smallpox.
The people suspected of contracting the disease had also recently traveled overseas, but exact locations are not being disclosed for privacy reasons, said Jennifer McQuiston, DVM, deputy director of CDC’s Division of High-Risk Pathogens and Pathology.
There is also a suspected viral case in Seattle of a man who had recently returned from a country where there were outbreaks of monkeypox, local health officials said Monday.
According to the World Health Organization, there are currently more than 90 confirmed and about 28 suspected cases of monkeypox in a dozen countries.
The outbreak is unusual in that cases have occurred in parts of the world where the virus is rare, such as Australia, Canada and Britain, as well as other European countries.
In the US, the CDC suspects that more cases of monkeypox will be detected in the coming days and weeks.
While monkeypox is a cause for concern, President Joe Biden said a quarantine is unlikely to be necessary to stop the spread.
“I just don’t think they’re as much of a concern as COVID-19, and the smallpox vaccine works against it,” he said at a recent press conference.
Why are monkeypox outbreaks spreading now
The causes of the current global outbreak are unknown, or at least have not been made public, says Dr Aaron Glatt, head of the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in New York State.
While some questions about monkeypox remain unanswered, the virus is not new.
Monkeypox is endemic in West and Central Africa, where most cases have occurred since the virus was first discovered. Over the past five years, Nigeria has seen a high number of cases of monkeypox, with at least nine recent returnees infected in different parts of the world, McQuiston told reporters at a recent press conference.
Human cases have already been detected in the US, including two people who had travelled to Nigeria in 2021.
The US also detected 47 confirmed and probable cases in 2003. According to the CDC, these cases were closely linked to animals imported from Ghana.
However, the most recent global cases of monkeypox were found in people who had not travelled to West Africa or other countries where the virus is prevalent. The infected people had travelled to Canada and European countries, where cases were reported in late April and early May.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
The symptoms of monkeypox are similar to, but less severe than, those of the smallpox virus. They usually appear one or two weeks after exposure to the virus, but in some cases may take longer.
Monkeypox usually starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headache and muscle aches.
Unlike smallpox and chicken pox, swollen lymph nodes are also common. (It is worth noting that, despite similar sounding names and descriptions, chickenpox is caused by the varicella zoster virus, i.e. it is not related to the monkeypox virus).
After 1-3 days from the onset of these symptoms, a rash usually develops on the face, which may then spread to the rest of the body.
Thereafter, the most noticeable symptoms may appear: flat, round lesions on different parts of the body, which eventually become bumps filled with transparent fluid.
These bumps eventually become crusty and fall off.
Recovery usually takes 2 to 4 weeks, even without specific treatment.
How do monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox is mainly contracted through close skin contact with people who have been affected by the virus.
Monkeypox is transmitted primarily through close skin-to-skin contact with people who have lesions caused by the virus.
The virus can also be contracted through respiratory droplets if you stay for a prolonged period of time near an infected person with lesions in the mouth.
To prevent the spread of the virus, it’s best to quarantine infected people and monitor their close contacts, the CDC says.
Some health experts also recommend a strategy called ring vaccination, which involves vaccinating close contacts of a person infected with the virus, to limit the spread of monkeypox.