Massachusetts health officials announced Sunday that two more cases of monkeypox had been diagnosed in the state. Here’s a quick roundup of the latest information on the rare disease.
What are the latest numbers?
Three cases have been reported in the state so far. The most recent two cases involved adult men who had close contact with each other. Boston health officials will lead the investigation and work with the state Department of Public Health, the men, and their healthcare providers to identify who the men were in contact with while they were infectious. The men are currently isolating, health officials said.
“I would be surprised if we did not see more cases,” said Dr. Erica Shenoy, associate chief of the Infection Control Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. MGH last month identified the first monkeypox case in Massachusetts, which was also the first recorded in the United States.
How much monkeypox is there in the United States?
So far there have been 65 cases reported nationally, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What are the symptoms?
They include fever, sore throat, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and the development of raised, fluid-filled lesions that eventually turn into scabs, according to public health officials.
“It is very important to be aware of the symptoms of monkeypox and to be vigilant. Individuals with concerning rashes should contact their healthcare provider,” said Catherine Brown, the state epidemiologist in Massachusetts.
The CDC said anyone with a rash that looks like monkeypox should call a doctor, even if they don’t think they had contact with someone carrying the virus.
How is it transmitted?
“Monkeypox spreads between people primarily through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids. It also can be spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact,” the CDC says. “Monkeypox can spread during intimate contact between people, including during sex, as well as activities like kissing, cuddling, or touching parts of the body with monkeypox sores. At this time, it is not known if monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids.”
It can also spread through direct contact with materials that have touched body fluids or sores, such as clothing or linens, the agency says.
“Most of the cases still appear to be associated with intimate contact, with sex in particular,” said Dr. Michael Klompas, hospital epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
In a statement on monkeypox transmission last week, the CDC said airborne transmission has not been observed with monkeypox. The virus can be found in droplets like saliva or respiratory secretions, but those drop out of the air quickly.
Monkeypox “is not known to linger in the air and is not transmitted during short periods of shared airspace,” the agency said. “Long range (e.g., airborne) transmission of monkeypox has not been reported.”
Still, the CDC recommends wearing a mask if you have monkeypox and are likely to have face-to-face contact with others in your home.
Who has been contracting it?
“Gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men make up a large proportion of the cases identified to date. However, anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk,” the DPH said.
What are doctors doing about it?
Federal and state officials are asking health care providers to keep a sharp eye out for monkeypox patients. Shenoy, the MGH specialist, said identifying a monkeypox patient should trigger a chain of events.
“Clinicians across the Commonwealth, and across the globe, should be familiar with signs and symptoms and the relevant epidemiological risk factors for monkeypox, and know what to do if they encounter a patient who may have monkeypox,” she said by e-mail. “The framework we think about is ‘Identify, Isolate, Inform’ — which we apply broadly in infection prevention and control.”
How worried should we be?
Klompas said the average person going about their daily life has an “extremely, extremely low” chance of getting the virus. “The risk of transmission is just not that high, particularly outside the context of sex,” he said.
The DPH said no deaths have been reported in the current outbreak. Patients typically recover in two to four weeks.
“Monkeypox is usually a self-limited disease,” the World Health Organization says on its website. But it noted that “severe cases occur more commonly among children” and that “underlying immune deficiencies may lead to worse outcomes.”
Monkeypox is part of the same family of viruses as smallpox but is typically a far milder condition. It is rarely fatal, The New York Times reported Monday.
“What it puts people through is a couple of weeks of pain and discomfort,” Klompas said. “It’s not pleasant to go through, but not life-threatening.”