CDC raises monkeypox warning as global cases surpass 1,000

Test tubes labeled “Monkeypox virus positive and negative” can be seen in this image, taken May 23, 2022.

Seen Ruvic | Reuters

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stepped up their guidelines for monkeypox and are urging people to take extra precautions as there are more than 1,000 cases of the virus worldwide.

The CDC raised its alert to level 2 on Monday, encouraging people to “take enhanced precautions” to stop the outbreak, which has spread to 29 non-endemic countries in the past month. The top-level warning — Level 3 — would warn against non-essential travel.

While the public health agency said the risk to the general public remains low, the increased warning encourages people to avoid close contact with sick people, including those with skin or genital lesions, as well as sick or dead animals. It also urges those who show symptoms of the virus, such as unexplained skin rashes or lesions, to avoid contact with others and contact their healthcare provider for advice.

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus, with symptoms including rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, swelling and back pain.

It is typically endemic in Central and West African countries, but the recent outbreak in North America, Europe and Australia has confused health professionals and raised fears of its spread among the population.

On Monday, 1,019 confirmed and suspected cases of monkeypox were reported in 29 countries, according to the CDC. The UK has by far the most cases on record, with 302 suspected and confirmed infections. This is followed by Spain with 198, Portugal with 153 and Canada with 80.

Health experts have searched for clues as to the source of the outbreak, which has historically been linked to travel from endemic countries. The World Health Organization’s technical lead for monkeypox said on Wednesday the virus may have been transmitted undetected in non-endemic countries for “weeks, months or possibly a few years”.

US detects two types of monkeypox

Until recently, the current outbreak was thought to stem from the West African strain of the virus, which causes less severe illness than other variants and has a 1% mortality rate.

However, the CDC said Friday that there are currently at least two genetically distinct variants of monkeypox circulating in the U.S., adding to the confusion of health experts. The US has reported a total of 30 cases of the virus so far.

“Although they are similar, their genetic analysis shows they are not linked,” Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s division of pathogens and pathology, said of the two variants at a news conference Friday. †

McQuiston said it’s likely the two strains stem from two different cases where the virus passed from animals to humans in Africa before spreading through personal contact.

Professor Eyal Leshem, an infectious disease specialist at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, told CNBC on Monday that the spread of the virus to non-endemic countries was not surprising, given the frequency and ease of international travel, as well as increased human interaction. and animal.

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“Diseases that were spread locally can now find their way across countries and continents much more easily,” Leshem said.

“Meanwhile, the interaction between humans and animals has also increased. Climate change has brought some animals into closer contact with humans, you will see more of these kinds of diseases,” he added.

While most cases of monkeypox are mild and typically resolve within two to four weeks, the US said Monday it has 36,000 doses of an appropriate vaccine it is sending to people who have been at risk from the virus. Some European countries, including the UK and Spain, have announced similar measures to curb the spread of the disease.

Monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, although most cases so far have spread through sex, particularly men who have sex with men, according to the CDC.

-This story was updated to note that the CDC has removed guidelines on its website for travelers to wear face masks.

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