A New York patient has tested positive for a virus linked to monkeypox, prompting health officials to call on Covid-weary Americans to wear face masks indoors as the US rushes to buy 13 million vaccine doses.
Two patients had been tested by the city’s health department for monkeypox – a rare infection causing rashes, sores and fevers that has suddenly emerged in several countries in recent weeks.
One of the patients was ruled out as negative while the second tested positive for Orthopoxvirus, the family of viruses to which monkeypox belongs.
The New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Public Health Laboratory said in a press release on Friday that final confirmation of the individual’s diagnosis will come after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from the United States will have completed their tests.
Until then, the patient is in isolation and presumed positive, likely making it the second known case on US soil this year after a Massachusetts man became the first confirmed case on Wednesday.
The New York Health Department revealed on Thursday that a possible case had been admitted to Bellevue Hospital in the heart of Manhattan with symptoms.
It’s unclear whether this individual is the presumptive positive or negative case, but even before preliminary testing returned, officials said contact tracing was already underway to track down anyone who may have come into close contact with them. .
The CDC urges Americans not to panic. The New York health agency recommends that Manhattan residents mask up indoors.
The agency said masks can protect against both monkeypox and other viruses such as Covid-19, while anyone with flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes and rashes on face and body is encouraged to contact their health care provider.
Health officials are desperate to avoid a repeat of the Covid-19 crisis, which has crippled the city’s healthcare system.
At the onset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, New York City quickly became the global epicenter of the virus, with 815 lives lost in a single day in April of that year.
Hospitals were on the verge of collapse as healthcare workers were overwhelmed with sick patients and bodies piled up in refrigerated trucks across the city.
Covid-19 cases are rising again in Manhattan, with all of New York City reaching the highest risk level for the virus this week.
At least six other possible cases of infection are also being investigated by the CDC after sitting near an infected traveler on a flight from Nigeria to the UK earlier this month.
The CDC said none of the six individuals had symptoms of monkeypox. They are said to be healthy and at low risk of contracting the infection.
The New York patient does not appear to be included in the six.
It comes after a Massachusetts man became the first confirmed case on US soil this year.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced on Wednesday the case of the man who had just returned from a trip to Canada, where he had traveled by private transportation.
The patient is in good condition at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The state agency said there was “no risk to the public” and that it was working closely with the CDC and other health officials to identify anyone who may have been in contact with the patient while he was contagious.
While monkeypox is less contagious and rarer than Covid-19, US officials aren’t waiting for cases to spike to act.
The US government has placed a $119 million order with Bavarian Nordic for the Jynneos vaccine, which is effective against both monkeypox virus and smallpox, the biotech company revealed this week.
Another $180 million is also ready and waiting for more vaccines if needed, allowing the country to procure 13 million doses in total.
CDC official Jennifer McQuiston said “the general public shouldn’t be concerned” about the sudden rise in infections of the rare disease, but admitted that “this is a very unusual situation. “.
“Monkey pox is normally only reported in West or Central Africa, and we don’t see it in the United States or Europe – and the number of reported cases is definitely outside the normal level. for what we would see,” she told CNN.
“At the same time, there really aren’t many cases being reported – I think maybe a dozen, a few dozen – so the general public shouldn’t be concerned about the immediate risk of monkeypox.”
Since early May, the World Health Organization has started holding daily emergency meetings around the world as cases have arisen in several countries that do not normally report infections.
Besides the United States, cases have also been detected in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden, with more than 100 confirmed or suspected cases in across Europe.
It is not yet known how the individuals were exposed to the rare infection.
The virus can be spread through close contact with an infected person or animal through respiratory droplets, bodily fluids, or other forms of close contact, such as sharing clothes.
Experts are now investigating a possible sexually transmitted spread after recent confirmed cases included men who said they had been sexually active.
Symptoms are said to resemble those of smallpox and include fever, headache, chills, muscle aches and exhaustion.
After about one to three days of fever, the patient usually develops a rash on the face before it spreads to other parts of the body. Lesions on the body go through different stages before finally falling off.
The main difference between the symptoms of smallpox and monkeypox is that monkeypox causes the lymph nodes to swell, according to the CDC.
In most cases, the symptoms are mild, but the virus has been fatal in about one in 10 cases in Africa.
Monkeypox was first detected in monkeys in 1958 when two outbreaks of a smallpox-like disease were detected in samples kept for research.
The first human case was recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970.
In 2003, cases of human monkeypox were detected on US soil – the first confirmed outside of Africa – when the country witnessed an outbreak in six states.
A total of 47 confirmed and probable cases have been reported in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.
All of the patients acquired the infection after coming into contact with prairie dogs that had been kept near small mammals imported from Ghana, according to the CDC.
Last year, two cases of infection were reported in the United States. The last was in November, when an American tested positive after returning to Maryland from Nigeria.
In July, another case was confirmed in Texas in a US citizen who had also traveled from Nigeria to the United States on two commercial flights.
In both cases, no additional infections were detected in the United States after health authorities conducted contact tracing.