CDC Monitors Potential Monkeypox Exposure in U.S.

July 23, 2021

As public health officials keep track of the contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 across the U.S., the CDC is also watching for a potential outbreak of another virus — monkeypox.

More than 200 people in 27 states are being monitored for possible exposure after they had contact with an American who contracted monkeypox in Nigeria before traveling to Texas earlier this month, according to STAT News.

So far, none of the people who are being followed are considered high-risk, and none have contracted the virus.

The traveler flew on an overnight flight from Lagos, Nigeria, to Atlanta, Ga., on July 8 and then flew on another flight to Dallas on July 9. On July 15, the patient went to the emergency room at a Dallas hospital and was diagnosed with monkeypox, STAT reported.

State health officials and the CDC are monitoring people who sat within 6 feet of the traveler on the overnight flight, flight attendants, passengers who used a particular bathroom on the plane, those who cleaned the bathroom after the flight, and some family members who interacted with the person in Dallas.

“It’s believed the risk for spread of monkeypox on the plane and in the airports is low, as travelers were required to wear masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and monkeypox is primarily spread through respiratory droplets,” according to the CDC.

Monkeypox stems from a virus that is like smallpox. It was first discovered in 1958 when outbreaks occurred in colonies of monkeys being held for research in Africa, according to the CDC. The disease is typically mild and causes less severe illness than smallpox but can be fatal in about 10% of cases.

“However, [fatality] rates can be higher in people who have weakened immune systems,” the CDC wrote.

Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a particular pox-like skin rash that develops across the body, including the palms of hands and the soles of feet.

First detected in humans in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970, monkeypox typically occurs in remote parts of central and west Africa. It was last detected in the U.S. in 2003, according to the CDC, when 47 confirmed and probable cases were reported in six states: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.

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