Test tubes labeled “Monkeypox virus positive and negative” are seen in this illustration taken May 23, 2022.
Dado Ruvic | Reuters
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tightened its guidance on monkeypox, urging people to take extra precautions as global cases of the virus top 1,000.
The CDC raised its alert to a Level 2 on Monday, encouraging people to “take enhanced precautions” to stem the outbreak, which has spread to 29 non-endemic countries over the past month. The highest alert level – Level 3 – would warn against non-essential travel.
While the public health body said the risk to the general public remains low, the heightened alert encourages people to avoid close contact with sick people, including those with skin or genital sores, as well as with sick or dead animals. He also urges people with symptoms of the virus, such as a rash or unexplained lesions, to avoid contact with others and to contact their healthcare provider for advice.
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus, with symptoms including rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, swelling, and back pain.
It is generally endemic in central and western African countries, but the recent outbreak in North America, Europe and Australia has baffled medical professionals and raised fears of community spread.
On Monday, 1,019 confirmed and suspected cases of monkeypox were reported in 29 countries, according to the CDC. The UK has recorded the most cases by far, with 302 suspected and confirmed infections. It is followed by Spain with 198, Portugal with 153 and Canada with 80.
Health experts have been looking for clues to the source of the outbreak, which has historically been linked to travel from endemic countries. The World Health Organization’s technical lead for monkeypox said Wednesday that the virus could have been transmitted undetected in non-endemic countries for “weeks, months or maybe a few years.”
US detects two strains of monkeypox
Until recently, the current outbreak was thought to originate from the West African strain of the virus, which produces milder disease than other variants and has a 1% fatality rate.
However, the CDC said Friday that at least two genetically distinct variants of monkeypox are currently circulating in the United States, adding to the confusion among health experts. The United States has so far reported 30 cases of the virus in total.
“Although they are similar to each other, their genetic analysis shows that they are not related to each other,” Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s Pathogens and High Consequence Conditions Division, told about the two variants during a press briefing on Friday. .
McQuiston said it’s likely the two strains originated from two different cases where the virus spread from animals to humans in Africa, before spreading through person-to-person contact.
Professor Eyal Leshem, an infectious disease specialist at Sheba Medical Center in Israel, told CNBC on Monday that the spread of the virus to non-endemic countries was not surprising given the frequency and ease of international travel, as well than the increased interaction between humans and animals.
“Diseases that have spread locally can now spread much more easily across countries and continents,” Leshem said.
“In the meantime, the interaction between humans and animals has also increased. Climate change has forced some animals to come into closer contact with humans, you will see more of these types of diseases,” he said. -he adds.
Although most cases of monkeypox are mild and usually clear up in two to four weeks, the United States said on Monday it has 36,000 doses of an appropriate vaccine it is sending to people who have been exposed to it. high risk to the virus. Some European countries, including the UK and Spain, have announced similar measures to stem the spread of the disease.
Monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, although the majority of cases have so far been spread through sex, and especially men who have sex with men, according to the CDC.
—This story has been updated to note that the CDC has removed advice on its website for travelers to wear face masks.