The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday warned that monkeypox could be spreading from person to person in the U.S.
Some of the monkeypox cases in the U.S. have not been linked to recent travel to countries where the virus typically spreads, suggesting instead that the virus is spreading in the community, according to the CDC.
“There could be community level transmission that is happening, and that’s why we want to really increase our surveillance efforts,” Jennifer McQuiston of the CDC said on a call with reporters.
As of Thursday, the CDC has confirmed 20 cases of monkeypox across 11 states. More than 700 cases have been reported globally.
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“No deaths have been reported in this outbreak among either the U.S. cases or those in other countries,” McQuiston said. “That being said, we don’t want to minimize this condition. The rash caused by monkeypox virus can spread widely across the body or present in sensitive areas like the genitalia. It can be really painful, and some patients have reported needing prescription pain medicine to manage that pain.”
In a study published Friday, the CDC detailed the 17 U.S. cases that were identified as of May 31. It found that 16 of the cases were in people who identify as gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men. Fourteen of the patients reported international travel in the three weeks leading up to symptoms. The remaining three either had contact with other cases or did not know how they caught the virus.
“Currently, all patients are in recovery or have already recovered, and those who still have a rash are being advised to stay home and stay away from other people until they’re fully recovered,” McQuiston said.
The World Health Organization this week said that the rapid appearance of the monkeypox outbreak suggests the virus has been spreading undetected.
“Investigations are ongoing but the sudden appearance of monkeypox in many countries at the same time suggests there may have been undetected transmission for some time,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing on Wednesday.
CDC officials on Friday said that while it’s possible some monkeypox cases have gone undetected in the U.S., it likely wasn’t a large number.
The outbreak poses a “moderate” public health risk, WHO said in an update posted Sunday. The CDC, on the other hand, said that the risk to public health in the U.S. remains low.
Monkeypox, which is a rare viral disease, is “transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding,” according to WHO. Symptoms include rash, headache, fever, muscle and body aches, swollen lymph nodes and back pain.