This year the first possible cases of human-to-human transmission of monkeypox have been detected in the United States.
This weekend has seen a total of four cases – two in California and one each in Colorado and New York.
This brings the number of infections in the US to 14 across eight states, with most infections in gay and bisexual men.
Health officials in California said their second case, identified this weekend, was a ‘close contact’ of an initial patient diagnosed three days earlier. Both are now isolated in different houses.
In Colorado, another person being tested for the virus is ‘close contact’ of a young gay or bisexual man who was found infected the day before.
The first patients in each state fell ill shortly after returning from overseas trips to Europe and Canada, respectively, which are facing outbreaks of the virus endemic to West Africa.
The explosion of cases in 24 countries prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to upgrade the threat level from the virus to ‘moderate’.
He warned that vulnerable people and children – who are more likely to die from the virus – could start to catch it if the infection continues to rise.
There is also growing concern that the disease will spread to wild animals, making it endemic around the world.
In California, the case was found in Sacramento – a city of 500,000 – and traced back to the initial infection seen three days earlier.
Health chiefs in the state stressed that the risk to the public is ‘very low’, although contact tracing is still in place.
On May 24, they uncovered a suspected case in a man who had returned from Europe the day before – which is experiencing an outbreak.
WHO raises risk of monkeypox outbreak to ‘moderate’
Monkeypox’s threat to the world has been upgraded to ‘moderate’ by the World Health Organization (WHO), as the tropical virus spreads to dozens of countries.
The WHO said the explosion of cases with no link to each other or Africa meant the current figure was ‘underestimated’.
It has warned that vulnerable people and children – who are more likely to die from the virus – could start to catch it if the infection continues.
So far the outbreak, which was first detected in early May, has spread to 24 countries and has been diagnosed in 106 Britain, most of whom are men who have sex with men.
There is also growing concern that the virus will spread to wild animals and become endemic around the world, as is the case in parts of central and western Africa.
Passing between humans and animals will also increase the risk of monkeypox mutating. Currently the risk to public health is moderate, but the WHO said it has the potential to be ‘high’.
In Colorado, officials said their new case was in Denver and that a ‘close contact’ of the case had been observed the day before.
He also said that the risk to the public ‘remains low’.
How the other two cases in California and New York may have been infected was not disclosed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are undergoing trials to confirm that these are monkeypox infections.
Most infections occur in men, but the case in Virginia is of a woman who recently returned from West Africa.
The virus has been seen in California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Utah, Virginia and Washington.
Only symptomatic people can spread the virus, usually through physical contact with infectious skin lesions.
Although it is not a sexually transmitted infection, health chiefs say touching the genital area can spread the virus.
More than 400 cases in 24 countries where the virus is not endemic have been observed so far, prompting the WHO to raise its threat level.
In a risk assessment published on Sunday, he warned that if the virus ‘exploits the opportunity to establish itself as a human pathogen’ and spread to vulnerable groups, its ‘moderate’ grading would be pushed to ‘high’. can go.
The WHO said the ‘sudden appearance’ and ‘wide geographic scope’ of cases suggest widespread human transmission of the virus – which is spread by skin-to-skin contact and droplets from infected individuals – is ongoing.
It also warned of an increase in monkeypox infections, warning that the virus “may be circulating undetected for several weeks or more”.
Reported cases have so far been mild, but there is a risk that the virus would have a ‘greater health impact’ if it spreads to people at risk, including immunocompromised people such as children and some HIV patients, who are ‘particularly may be at risk. more serious illness.
Up to 10 percent of people infected with monkeypox can die. The mild strain caused by the current outbreak kills one in 100 – when Covid was first struck. Virus mortality among children has been high in previous outbreaks.
The WHO warned that there is a ‘high risk’ of further spread of the virus though due to skin-to-skin contact between families and sexual partners, as well as contact with contaminated material, such as utensils, bedding and clothing.
Health chiefs have warned monkeypox, a virus endemic in parts of Africa and known for its rare and unusual rashes, bumps and sores, may also spread to some pets and be endemic in Europe. Undated handout file image issued by the UK Health Protection Agency of the stages of monkeypox
“However, at present, the risk to the general public appears to be low,” the agency said.
It warned that a “large portion” of the population is vulnerable to monkeypox due to the closure of the smallpox vaccination scheme.
Very few people under the age of forty have been vaccinated. In the US, youth were regularly offered this jab until four decades ago, at which point the virus was eradicated.
Because smallpox and monkeypox are so similar, people who have received the jab are believed to have up to 85 percent immunity against the circulating strain.
No monkeypox cases have been reported among medics in the current outbreak, it noted, but an NHS worker became infected in 2018 after treating a patient who had returned from Nigeria.
The WHO also warned in its report that people who have recently had multiple sexual partners – either where they live or abroad – may be at ‘risk’ of getting monkeypox.
It said health chiefs should reach out to at-risk communities, which include ‘at the present time’ men who have sex with men and their close contacts.