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Monkeypox, a Rare Africa-based Virus, Makes Its Way into the U.S.

— May 31, 2022

A rare virus with flu-like symptoms is reported in the U.S.

It appears that the monkeypox virus, a rare Africa-based skin disease, has made its way into the U.S.  The first case in 2022 came out of Massachusetts earlier this month and was reported by the state’s Department of Public Health.  That man, whose personal information was not released, had traveled to Montreal, Canada and was kept in isolation in Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  Shortly after this story broke, another case was reported in New York and that patient was quarantined at Bellevue Hospital.

Monkeypox was first discovered in the mid-20th century when two outbreaks were noted in monkeys and the virus got its name.  The first human case was reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites that the incubation period (infection to symptoms) for the virus is typically a week to two weeks but can range from 5−21 days.  Common symptoms include fever and chills, head and muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes and extremely fatigue.  One to three days following a fever, a rash begins to appear that eventually leads to lesions which will fall off after two weeks to one month.

Monkeypox, a Rare Africa-based Virus, Makes Its Way into the U.S.
Photo by DSD from Pexels

“I would emphasize that historically, this has been a rare disease with very rare transmission around the world,” said Paul Biddinger, MD, director of the Center for Disaster Medicine at Massachusetts General. “What we have seen in the United Kingdom, in Spain, and in Europe has been novel, and that gives us cause for concern.  But I think, appropriately, people should not be afraid of monkeypox right now.  The current patient is of no public health risk right now.  People should just be aware of symptoms, but not be afraid in any way.”

More 2022 cases of the Africa-based pox have been reported overseas in the countries mentioned, and the United Kingdom Health Security Agency said, “The number of cases in the U.K. has grown from seven to nine since May 6, with recent cases mostly in gay or bisexual men, or men who have sex with men.”  While the virus is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, it can be passed through close, intimate contact.

“These latest cases, together with reports of cases in countries across Europe, confirms our initial concerns that there could be spread of monkeypox within our communities,” Susan Hopkins, MD, chief medical adviser for the Health Security Agency, said.

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported that Spain issued a nationwide warning after finding 23 cases, and in Portugal, five cases were confirmed with 15 others currently under investigation.  In general, cases of the Africa-based pox outside of Africa are rare.  Two were detected in the U.S. last year and both were ultimately traced back to travel to the continent.

In Africa, monkeypox has been shown to cause death in as many as “1 in 10 persons” who contract the disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  The organization states that (outside of close contact with an infected person) monkeypox can also be transmitted when an individual comes in contact with contaminated material.


Officials Report a Possible Monkeypox Case in New York

Case of Monkeypox Confirmed in Massachusetts

CDC: Monkeypox Signs and Symptoms

Monkeypox – WHO | World Health Organization

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