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Six new cases of monkeypox reported in Massachusetts

A medical laboratory technician holds suspected monkeypox samples at the microbiology laboratory of La Paz Hospital in Madrid, Spain.Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Photographer: Pablo Blazquez Dom

Six more men in Massachusetts have been diagnosed with monkeypox in the past week, bringing the total to 13 since the state’s first case was announced May 18, officials said Thursday, as international public health officials considered labeling the expanding outbreak a global emergency.

The six men were found to be positive for the virus between June 16 and Wednesday after initial testing at the State Public Health Laboratory in Jamaica Plain, which will be confirmed by further tests at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a statement from the Department of Public Health.

All six are isolating to avoid spreading the virus, while state and local health officials are working with the patients and their health care providers to identify anyone who may have had contact with them while they were infectious, the statement said.

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Also Thursday, the World Health Organization convened an emergency meeting in London to discuss declaring the outbreak a global emergency.

The CDC has reported 156 monkeypox cases in the US so far this year, but no deaths have been reported here or globally amid the outbreak, and most patients will recover from the virus within two to four weeks, according to the statement.

DPH is now providing weekly public updates on monkeypox infections each Thursday, officials said.

Initial cases of monkeypox, related to the smallpox virus, were linked to international travel, the department said. However, men who have sex with men now make up a large proportion of identified cases, though anyone who is exposed to someone with monkeypox is at risk, according to the statement.

Typically found in Africa, monkeypox can lead to symptoms including headache, fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and the development of raised, fluid-filled lesions, though a rash is often the first symptom, the department said.

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The disease does not spread easily between people but can be transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids and sores or by touching items contaminated with fluids or sores, officials said. The virus can also be transmitted through respiratory droplets following long periods of face-to-face contact, the statement said.

It cannot be spread through casual conversations, doorknobs, or walking past an infected person in public place, officials said.

Officials advise people to avoid large dance parties or other events that involve close body contact with others and to talk with sexual partners about whether they have any symptoms of the virus. Anyone who believes they may be infected should contact their health care provider.


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.