CDC, Mass. Health Officials Monitoring Contacts of Mass. Monkeypox Patient

CDC, Mass. Health Officials Monitoring Contacts of Mass. Monkeypox Patient

Federal health officials are monitoring people who have been in contact with the Boston resident who was diagnosed with monkeypox last week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has been conducting contact tracing.

State health officials have told the CDC that they are investigating more than 200 contacts, but noted that most of those people are health care workers. It is also important to note that the risk level for these contacts is still being determined.

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness that typically begins with flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, and eventually a rash on the face and body, according to public health experts. Those symptoms typically last about two to four weeks.

The Boston man with the virus had recently traveled from Canada, officials said last week, adding that there was no risk to the public. The patient is in good condition.

After the Massachusetts case was confirmed, one suspected case was identified in New York City, another in Florida, and two more in Utah, NBC News reported.

Recent cases have been diagnosed in the U.K., Spain and Portugal.

The monkeypox virus is related to the one that causes smallpox, but health officials noted that transmission between people is difficult — it travels through bodily fluids, sores, items contaminated with fluids or sores or prolonged face-to-face contact.

The cases in the U.K. were all in men who have sex with men, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Signs of a monkeypox infection include flu-like symptoms and lymph node swelling, then a rash that can begin on one part of the body and then spread, health officials say. The infection can last two to four weeks and may be confused with sexually transmitted disease like herpes or with chickenpox.

“The rash can proceed over a series of days, or even weeks, where they develop either flat or pustules,” Dr. Erica Shenoy, medical director for the Region 1 Emerging Special Pathogens Treatment Center, said last week. “In there is where the virus is, so that’s where the direct contact with fluid is really one of the major risk factors for transmission.”

Shenoy said at the time the Massachusetts patient was “doing quite well,” and that the strain of the virus has been identified as one out of West Africa, which is known to be less severe.

“At this point there’s a spectrum of illness, we are reassured that this is West African clade,” Shenoy told reporters Wednesday.

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