Healthcare

What we know about monkeypox cases in the US

Nine likely cases of monkeypox have been identified in the U.S. so far as the virus continues to spread throughout Western countries, outside of the central and western African regions where it typically occurs.

Health authorities have been quick to advise against panic, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still considering monkeypox to pose a low risk to the general community. 

Health experts have stressed that monkeypox is not another COVID-19.

“If people have COVID in their minds, they should cast that out. Because this is not COVID. It doesn’t transmit with the same facility,” Stanley Deresinski, a clinical professor of infectious diseases at Stanford University, told The Hill.

How it can spread

As Deresinski noted, monkeypox requires prolonged skin-to-skin contact for it to spread from person to person, unlike SARS-CoV-2, which spreads through respiratory droplets. The main method through which monkeypox spreads is through the characteristic lesions that develop on the skin. 

Once these lesions have scabbed over and fully healed, then an individual is no longer considered to be infectious. After they have healed, they may leave behind scarring. The clothing and bedsheets of an infected individual can also act as a pathway for infection.

Other symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headaches, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and fatigue. Infections typically last between two and four weeks.

Where it has been detected

Probable monkeypox cases have been detected in California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Utah, Virginia and Washington state. 

According to the CDC, monkeypox cases have so far been detected in men. While many cases in Europe have been detected in men who have sex with men, the CDC has not confirmed the sexuality of all the men who have been infected in the U.S., citing patient confidentiality.

With Pride Month coming up in June, Deresinski said people should “of course” practice some heightened caution as many travel and gather to celebrate.

“I think that precautions need to be taken in terms of who you have skin-to-skin contact with, for instance,” he said.

The number of cases will continue to rise, Deresinski said, but he added that they will likely be easy to contain, and the spread of infection will probably die down. Deresinski also noted that the mortality rate for monkeypox is fairly low, ranging between 1 and 5 percent.

Federal officials expressed a cautious readiness to deal with this outbreak during a press briefing this week.

“We are prepared, but I’ve always learned it’s wise to face infectious disease threats not with overconfidence, but with humility. A monkeypox outbreak of this scale and scope across the world, it has not been seen before,” said Raj Panjabi, the White House’s senior director for global health security and biodefense.

Treatments

One clear difference between the monkeypox outbreak and the coronavirus pandemic is that treatments and vaccines for monkeypox were immediately available through the U.S. national stockpile and have already been mobilized to states where cases have been detected.

One antiviral, Jynneos, has been mobilized for use in states to be administered to close contacts of the monkeypox cases as well as health care providers.

The CDC on Friday released recommendations for Jynneos to be administered to laboratory personnel and health care providers treating patients with orthopoxvirus, the family of viruses that monkeypox falls within.

While there are no antiviral medications specifically designed to treat monkeypox, some smallpox medications can be used to treat monkeypox including brincidofovir and tecovirimat.

A recent study published in The Lancet medical journal found that brincidofovir and tecovirimat could be effective against monkeypox.

Tags CDC Coronavirus Monkeypox

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