CDC investigates first reported case of monkeypox in U.S.

monkeypox
Photo: World Health Organization

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC is collaborating with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to investigate a case of monkeypox in a Massachusetts resident who had recently traveled to Canada by private transport. 

Tests in Massachusetts found an infection with orthopox virus - a virus in isolated species of nonhuman mammals - on Tuesday night, and CDC laboratories confirmed it was monkeypox Thursday afternoon.

The government agency said it is already tracking multiple clusters of monkeypox reported in the past two weeks in several countries that normally had no cases of the disease, including Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom. 

He stressed that it is unclear how people in those groups were exposed to monkeypox, but the cases include people who self-identify as men who have sex with men. 

CDC has urged health care providers in the U.S. to be on the lookout for patients who have skin disease consistent with monkeypox, regardless of whether they have traveled or have specific risk factors for monkeypox.

He added that anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can spread monkeypox through contact with bodily fluids, monkeypox sores, or shared items - such as bedding - that have been contaminated with fluids or sores from a person with monkeypox. 

Monkeypox virus can also spread among people through respiratory droplets, usually in a closed environment, such as the home or a health care facility, CDC said.

However, common household disinfectants can kill monkeypox virus.

"Many of these global reports of monkeypox cases occur within sexual networks. However, health care providers should be on the lookout for any rash that has typical characteristics of monkeypox. We are asking the public to contact their health care provider if they have a new rash and are concerned about the disease," said Inger Damon, a poxvirus expert with more than 20 years of experience and director of CDC's Division of High Infection. 

What people should do about monkeypox:

Persons who may have symptoms of monkeypox, particularly men who report having sex with other men and those who have close contact with them, should be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and contact their health care provider for a risk assessment.

What health care providers should do:

If health care providers identify patients with a rash that resembles monkeypox, they should consider it, regardless of whether the patient has a history of travel to Central or West African countries.

Concerns should not be limited to men who report having had sex with other men, as those who have some close personal contact with people with monkeypox may also be at risk of contracting the disease.

Some patients have had genital lesions and the rash may be difficult to distinguish from syphilis, herpes simplex virus infection (HSV), chancroid, varicella zoster and other more common infections.

They should also isolate any patients suspected of having monkeypox in a negative pressure room and ensure that staff understand the importance of wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and that they wear it whenever they are in the vicinity of suspected cases.

Finally, clinicians should consult the state health department or CDC's monkeypox call center through the agency's Emergency Operations Center at 770-488-7100 as soon as a case of monkeypox is suspected.

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral disease that usually begins with a flu-like illness and swollen lymph nodes and progresses to a generalized rash on the face and body. 

The virus that causes monkeypox re-emerged in Nigeria in 2017 after more than 40 years with no reported cases. Since then, there have been more than 450 reported cases in Nigeria and at least eight known cases exported internationally.

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