On Wednesday, health officials confirmed that a man in Massachusetts has monkeypox, a rare disease that is currently making its way through the UK. The infected man has been hospitalized and is currently in good condition, according to the Massachusetts Department of Health.
This case was confirmed one day after the CDC warned of the possibility that the outbreak in Europe could spread beyond the borders of the UK.
“We do have a level of concern that this is very different than what we typically think of from monkeypox,” said a senior CDC official in an interview with STAT. “And I think we have some concern there could be spread outside the UK associated with this.”
Monkeypox is a virus that rarely appears outside of central and western Africa. However, it was identified in the UK, Spain, and Portugal in early May. So far, nine cases have been confirmed in the UK, five in Portugal (and over 20 under investigation), and 23 suspected cases in Spain.
According to Breaking 911, “Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness that typically begins with flu-like illness and swelling of the lymph nodes and progresses to a rash on the face and body. Most infections last 2-4 weeks.”
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Fortunately, the virus doesn’t spread easily between people. Transmission occurs via contact with bodily fluids, monkeypox sores/fluids, or through respiratory droplets following prolonged face-to-face contact, according to the CDC.
The infection can also be passed to humans from animals via bites or scratches, or by the consumption of meat from wild animals who are infected.
UK health officials have reported that most infected individuals are men who engage in sexual acts with other men. However, this raises questions among public health experts because monkeypox is not necessarily considered a sexually transmitted disease.
In response to this apparent trend, Dr. Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser of the UK Health Security Agency, said, “We are particularly urging men who are gay and bisexual to be aware of any unusual rashed or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay if they have concerns.”