The United States now has two presumptive cases of Monkeypox after a New York patient tested positive for a virus linked to the infection on Friday – two days after a Massachusetts man became the first confirmed case in the country this year.
Cases of the rare infectious disease have suddenly started spreading across the world in recent weeks, with infections confirmed in countries including the UK, Spain and Portugal.
Because the disease is rare and more common in central and western African countries, infections in these countries have caused some concern.
The World Health Organization is now holding daily meetings on the situation, with an emergency meeting on Friday of the committee to advise on infection risks that could pose a threat to global health.
With the rare infectious disease now confirmed on US soil, the US government is ramping up orders for a smallpox vaccine that is also effective against Monkeypox while urging the public not to worry.
Here’s everything you need to know about the outbreak and what could happen next:
What do we know about the first case in the United States?
The man who was hospitalized in Massachusetts had returned from visiting friends in Nigeria in early May, the CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) said.
His case was confirmed on Wednesday and health authorities have been working to identify people who may have come into contact with the man while he was infectious.
The man had recently returned from Canada and, according to the CDC, he traveled in a private vehicle.
What do we know about the New York affair?
New York City health officials announced on May 20 that a patient had tested positive for a virus linked to Monkeypox and is presumed to be the second confirmed case on US soil this year.
According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Public Health Laboratory, two patients had been tested for Monkeypox, with one testing negative.
The second patient tested positive for Orthopoxvirus, the family of viruses to which Monkeypox belongs.
Confirmation of the individual’s diagnosis will come after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) completes further testing, but until then the patient is in isolation and presumed positive.
Are there other cases in the United States?
The CDC said it was investigating at least six other possible cases of infection, after the individuals sat near an infected traveler on a flight from Nigeria to the UK earlier this month.
None of the six people have symptoms of Monkeypox and are said to be in good health and at low risk of contracting the infection.
What are the symptoms?
Monkeypox belongs to the same family of viruses as smallpox and presents as fever, headache, muscle aches and exhaustion. It can also present as a rash that begins on the face.
The CDC says that “the main difference between the symptoms of smallpox and monkeypox is that monkeypox causes the lymph nodes to swell (lymphadenopathy) whereas smallpox does not.”
A few days after the infection begins, the skin may resemble chickenpox or syphilis and will fall off after crusting.
Monkeypox can take between five and 21 days after exposure to cause illness, and usually lasts up to four weeks.
Why is monkeypox spreading?
Monkeypox is transmitted through close contact between infected humans and, according to the CDC, is primarily through large respiratory droplets.
Since respiratory droplets cannot travel more than a few feet, prolonged face-to-face contact is necessary, according to the agency. Rodents have been blamed for spreading cases in central and west Africa, in situations where people are bitten or scratched by an infected animal.
Jimmy Whitworth, professor of international public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said The Associated Press that the resumption of international travel after Covid-19 was partly responsible for recent cases in the United States and Europe.
“My working theory would be that there are a lot of them in West and Central Africa, travel has resumed, and that’s why we’re seeing more cases,” Mr Whitworth said.
Another theory put forward by Anne Rimoin, professor of epidemiology at UCLA in California, was that the eradication of smallpox in Africa and the phasing out of vaccinations had allowed monkeypox – which had been targeted with the same vaccine – to spread easily.
An international investigation into the outbreak is ongoing.
What happens now?
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said it is preparing for the ‘possibility of more cases’ in the US following the first confirmed case in Massachusetts, but is calling for calm among Americans.
CDC official Jennifer McQuiston said “the general public shouldn’t be concerned” about the sudden rise in infections of the rare disease, but admitted that “this is a very unusual situation. “.
The Biden administration has moved to purchase 13 million doses of Monkeypox vaccines, placing a $119 million order with Bavarian Nordic for the Jynneos vaccine.
The vaccine is effective against monkeypox virus and smallpox.
An additional $180 million is also ready and waiting to purchase even more vaccines if or when needed, enabling the country in total to put 13 million doses into the arms of the American people.
Around the world, the World Health Organization has started holding daily emergency meetings about the infection.
Has the United States ever had monkeypox?
Yes, there were two cases in the United States last year, which were discovered in Texas and Maryland.
Both cases have been linked to American travelers to Nigeria by the CDC, which said the cases were from a strain of monkeypox first detected in the West African country in 2017.
A shipment of animals from Ghana, also in West Africa, was responsible for a 2003 outbreak in six states – Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.
The outbreak resulted in 47 confirmed cases and, according to the CDC, it was the first time monkeypox had been reported outside of Africa.
Where else has monkeypox been reported recently?
Authorities in a handful of European countries have announced cases of Monkeypox in recent months, including nine confirmed cases in the UK, five in Portugal and 23 potential cases in Spain.
In a recent update, the UK government said at least two of the cases ‘have no travel link to a country where monkeypox is endemic, so it is possible they have contracted the infection by community transmission.
The first seven cases were linked to travelers from Nigeria, like the 2,021 cases recorded in the United States, while the most recent cases were found “mainly in homosexuals, bisexuals or men who have sex with men “.
Eight of the Spanish cases have also been linked to men who have sex with men, while in Portugal a cluster of 20 potential monkeypox infections all involved men, authorities said.
In Spain, cases have been limited to the area in and around the capital, Madrid, and in Portugal authorities say infections have been limited to the Lisbon region and the Tagus Valley.
Is there a remedy?
There is no specific cure for monkeypox, which was first reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the United States, smallpox vaccine, antivirals and vaccine immunoglobulin (VIG) can be used as potential treatments, according to the CDC.
While most people recover from monkeypox within weeks, for one in 10 people the disease can be fatal, according to the World Health Organization.
The Independent Gt