CDC investigates 4 suspected cases as it works to vaccinate high-risk contacts

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating four suspected cases of monkeypox in the United States. All of the cases are in men and are travel-related, and there is no evidence that the virus has changed to become more contagious, CDC officials said at a Monday press briefing.

The country’s first case was confirmed last week, in a Massachusetts man. The suspected cases under investigation include one in New York, one in Florida and two in Utah, CDC officials said.

Although additional cases are expected, officials noted there was no evidence the virus is spreading widely in the country and added that the United States has a stockpile of vaccines available for close contacts. infected patients.

CDC is working to acquire and distribute a small amount of monkeypox vaccine doses from the National Strategic Stockpile for select high-risk individuals who have had contact with cases.

In all of the suspected and confirmed U.S. cases, the individuals had traveled out of the country, Capt. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s Pathogens and High-Consequence Pathologies Division, said during the briefing.

Individuals in the United States said they traveled in April, with symptoms appearing in early May, according to the CDC.

The majority of current cases have been reported in men who have sex with men.

Monkeypox has not historically been considered a sexually transmitted disease. However, it is transmitted through close physical contact and can be spread during sex. Two raves held in Spain and Belgium among gay and bisexual men have been linked to the current cases.

“It really requires a low-key encounter with the lesions themselves or the bedding or clothing they share,” Dr. John Brooks, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, told NBC News. .

Monkeypox can also be transmitted through respiratory droplets from someone who has lesions in their mouth, the CDC said. This is very different from the highly contagious Covid-19.

“It’s not a situation where if you bump into someone at the grocery store, you’re at risk of getting monkeypox,” McQuiston said.

The main risk would be for people who have been in close physical contact with someone who already has monkeypox, McQuiston said. “These would include people like family members or healthcare workers caring for someone with an active infection.”

In Massachusetts, 200 people, mostly healthcare workers, are being tracked after coming into contact with a patient.

Many confirmed monkeypox patients in current outbreak reported a rash or lesions on their genitals, which some doctors may have misinterpreted as herpes or syphilis, the CDC said.

Despite recent spread in the gay community, CDC experts emphasize that this disease is not specific to any group.

“Infectious diseases do not care about borders or social networks. Certain groups may have a greater chance of exposure at this time, but the current risk of exposure to monkeypox is by no means exclusive to the gay and bisexual community,” Brooks said during the briefing. “Anyone can develop and spread a monkeypox infection.”

Two vaccines are available to prevent monkeypox.

A vaccine, called Jynneos, is specifically for monkeypox. There are enough Jynneos vaccine doses available in stock for about 500 people. The CDC said production of the vaccine is expected to ramp up in the coming weeks.

However, there are over 100 million doses of another vaccine, ACAM2000. It is an older generation vaccine intended to prevent smallpox, but could also be used to prevent monkeypox, McQuiston said.

This vaccine, however, can cause significant side effects and would only be considered for very close personal contacts of those infected with monkeypox, as well as healthcare workers.

Most monkeypox patients in the current outbreak recovered within a month without any specific treatment, the CDC said. No deaths have been reported.

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