The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified nine cases of monkeypox in seven US states, officials said Thursday: in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
“The United States has the resources we need to help us respond to monkeypox in this country right now. We’ve been preparing for this type of outbreak for decades,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle said. Walensky, during a briefing.
Walensky mentioned two vaccines that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for smallpox and stored in the National Strategic Stockpile. The United States has 100 million doses of a vaccine, called ACAM2000. The second, called Jynneos, is FDA-approved for use against monkeypox specifically, and some doses have already been distributed.
Although some of the American patients have a history of travel to areas where monkeypox has spread recently, this is not true for all. Given this, Walensky said, “we have to assume that there is some community spread.”
Almost all of the cases so far all involve men who have sex with men, although Walensky stressed that “the risk of exposure is not limited to any particular group.”
“Other communities outside of the LGBTQ community should also remain vigilant. Transmission can occur whether you are in that community or not in that community,” said Dr. Raj Panjabi, Senior Director of Global Health Security and biodefense at White House National. Security Council.
What we know so far about monkeypox cases in the United States
The CDC did not say in Thursday’s briefing whether the nine cases had been confirmed.
Massachusetts last week confirmed the first US case of the current outbreak: a man who recently traveled to Canada. He was hospitalized May 12 and remains in good condition, the state health department said.
The CDC described the man’s lesions as firm, deep, bumpy and well-defined, which is characteristic of monkeypox. Patients often develop a rash that progresses to small bumps on the skin, followed by blisters that may fill with whitish fluid.
The second patient arrived at Bellevue Hospital in New York on May 19 and tested positive for the orthopoxvirus, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. In a statement released Thursday, the department said that although “CDC testing did not conclusively identify monkeypox virus,” the patient was “presumptively diagnosed with monkeypox.”
Two cases identified in Salt Lake County, Utah are adults living in the same household. They began experiencing symptoms after traveling overseas to an area with monkeypox cases earlier this month, the Salt Lake County Health Department said.
“Both cases have been confirmed by the CDC to be monkeypox,” the department said Wednesday. Patients’ illnesses are mild and full recovery is expected.
The two Florida monkeypox cases are both in Broward County. At least one is related to international travel, CDC officials said Monday. The two patients are isolated.
Meanwhile, health officials in King County, Washington are monitoring a case in a man who traveled to a country with monkeypox cases in the past month. He is recovering at home, officials said, after testing positive for orthopoxvirus on Monday.
The California case is in Sacramento County and has been confirmed by the CDC. The patient was identified on Saturday and then tested positive for the orthopoxvirus on Monday and is self-isolating at his home.
“This case appears to be related to recent travel to Europe,” Sacramento Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said in a statement. She added that “the risk to the general public is extremely low”.
CDC officials added Virginia to the list of states with monkeypox cases on Thursday. The state health department said in a news release that the patient was female and had “recent international travel history to an African country where the disease is known.”
How monkeypox cases are tested and confirmed
Laboratories use orthopoxvirus tests to identify cases of monkeypox. Orthopoxvirus is a class of virus that includes smallpox and monkeypox, but smallpox can be excluded because it has been eradicated.
That’s how the Massachusetts case was discovered, the CDC explained. The agency said the patient had contracted the West African strain of monkeypox, which tends to cause mild illness. About 1% of people who have contracted this strain have died in the past, according to the World Health Organization.
Massachusetts health officials are investigating more than 200 of the man’s contacts, most of whom are healthcare workers, the CDC said Monday.
A senior White House administration official said Tuesday that some doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital had been exposed to the man before they knew he had monkeypox. The doctors weren’t wearing the right protective gear, so they’re being offered a vaccine, which could prevent them from getting the disease or developing symptoms if given soon after exposure.
Experts are optimistic about the containment of the epidemic
The number of monkeypox cases in the United States is relatively low compared to some countries in Europe. Spain has confirmed 84 cases and the UK 85. In total, nearly 300 cases have been confirmed outside Africa since the start of the month.
Monkeypox is endemic in 11 African countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, where most cases are concentrated worldwide. Prior to this month, the largest outbreak of monkeypox in the United States occurred in 2003, when prairie dogs infected 47 people.
Infections in Africa typically occur in people who have been exposed through animal bites or scratches, or while preparing wild game meat. But disease experts believe the virus is currently spreading among people through skin-to-skin contact, particularly during sexual activity. However, monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted infection.
People can get monkeypox from exposing themselves to other people’s rashes and sores, which often appear after a patient develops flu-like symptoms. Several recent patients have reported rashes in the genital area that have not spread to the rest of the body. This could make infections less visible, World Health Organization officials said on Monday.
Experts remain optimistic that the outbreak can be contained through contact tracing and targeted vaccinations.
“We are working hard to contain the cases that are occurring so they don’t spread,” Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s Pathogens and High-Consequence Pathologies Division, said Thursday.
“We continue to monitor what is happening and consider whether broader vaccination recommendations would make sense, but at this time we only have nine known cases,” McQuiston added. “We have contacts that we have identified associated with these cases who would likely benefit the most from the vaccine, and so that is where we are focusing our energies at this time.”
The FDA approved the Jynneos vaccine in 2019. Although it is the only one approved for monkeypox, older smallpox vaccines have been shown to protect against monkeypox about 85% of the time.
“As long as public health officials jump on it and get out there and track down everyone that these people have been in contact with, I think you can stop this pretty quickly,” said David Evans, a virologist at the University of Alberta.