Federal officials are cautioning Americans to be aware after the first confirmed case of monkeypox was reported on the East Coast and a possible case is under investigation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an alert on Friday, May 20 along with the Massachusetts Department of Health as they investigate a confirmed case of the virus in the Commonwealth.
On Tuesday, May 17, an investigation was launched when a Massachusetts resident was treated for skin lesions that had several features suspicious of monkeypox, including "firm, well-circumscribed, deep-seated, and umbilicated lesions."
The following day, after exhaustive testing, the CDC confirmed that the patient - who is currently isolated and not a risk to the public - was infected with a West African strain of monkeypox virus.
A second case is also under investigation in New York, where a patient is being treated at Bellvue Hospital in Manhattan, according to the New York City Health Department.
Officials have already started contact tracing as they wait to see if the patient has contracted monkeypox after sending samples to the CDC.
According to the CDC, cases of monkeypox have previously been identified in travelers from, or residents of, West African or Central African countries where monkeypox is considered to be endemic.
“CDC is issuing this Health Alert Network (HAN) Health Advisory to ask clinicians in the United States to be vigilant to the characteristic rash associated with monkeypox,” officials said.
They said that suspicion of monkeypox should be heightened in people who:
- “Traveled to countries with recently confirmed cases of the virus;
- Report having had contact with a person or people who have a similar rash or received a diagnosis of confirmed or suspected monkeypox;
- Is a man who regularly has close or intimate in-person contact with other men, including those met through an online website, digital application (“app”), or at a bar or party.”
Since Saturday, May 14, clusters of monkeypox infections have been reported in multiple countries that don’t usually see cases of the virus, including the United Kingdom and the East Coast of the US.
“Before May 2022, cases outside of Africa were reported either among people with recent travel to Nigeria or contact with a person with a confirmed monkeypox virus infection,” the CDC noted.
“However, in May 2022, nine patients were confirmed with monkeypox in England; six were among persons without a history of travel to Africa and the source of these infections is unknown.”
Symptoms of monkeypox include a rash that could be preceded by a prodrome including fever, lymphadenopathy, and often other non-specific symptoms such as malaise, headache, and muscle aches.
There is no specific treatment for monkeypox virus infection, although antivirals developed for use in patients with smallpox may prove beneficial, officials noted.
“Based on the limited information available at this time, the risk to the public appears low,” according to the CDC. "Some people who may have symptoms of monkeypox, such as characteristic rashes or lesions, should contact their healthcare provider for a risk assessment.”
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