Updated June 10, 2022

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are collaborating with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to investigate a case of monkeypox in a Massachusetts resident who had recently traveled to Canada by private transportation. Testing in Massachusetts found the orthopox virus infection May 17, and CDC labs confirmed it as monkey pox May 18.

Since that time the CDC has identified 24 additional cases in the following states:  California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

“The U.S. has the resources we need to help us respond to monkeypox in this country right now. We’ve been preparing for this type of outbreak for decades,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a briefing.

It’s not clear how people in those clusters were exposed to monkeypox, but cases include individuals who self-identify as men who have sex with men. CDC is urging healthcare providers in the U.S. to be alert for patients who have rash illnesses consistent with monkeypox, regardless of whether they have traveled or exhibit specific risk factors for monkeypox.

Walensky confirmed there are two FDA approved drugs available for small pox.  The U.S. has 100 million doses of ACAM2000. The second, called Jynneos, is FDA-approved specifically for use against monkeypox and some doses of it have already been distributed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says they have yet to determine whether monkeypox transmission can be linked to sexual activity.

“While close physical contact is a well-known risk factor for transmission, it is unclear at this time if monkeypox can be transmitted specifically through sexual transmission routes,” they said in a monkeypox fact sheet.

An article tweeted out by the UNAIDS deputy executive editor, Matthew Kavanaugh, pointed out the similarities between homophobic coverage of monkeypox and news coverage around the AIDS epidemic. 

“Monkeypox is not a gay disease and neither are any other infectious diseases,” the article states. “It is unfortunate that this still needs to be said, highlighting how little we have learned from previous outbreaks.”

The CDC is also tracking multiple clusters of monkeypox that have been reported within the past two weeks in several countries that don’t normally report monkeypox, including Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom. 

Anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can spread monkeypox through contact with body fluids, monkeypox sores, or shared items (such as clothing and bedding) that have been contaminated with fluids or sores of a person with monkeypox. Monkeypox virus can also spread between people through respiratory droplets typically in a close setting, such as the same household or a healthcare setting. Common household disinfectants can kill the monkeypox virus.

“Many of these global reports of monkeypox cases are occurring within sexual networks. However, healthcare providers should be alert to any rash that has features typical of monkeypox. We’re asking the public to contact their healthcare provider if they have a new rash and are concerned about monkeypox,” said Inger Damon, MD, PhD, a pox virus expert with more than 20 years experience and Director of the CDC’s Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, where the agency’s poxvirus research is based.

What people should do:

  • People who may have symptoms of monkeypox, particularly men who report sex with other men, and those who have close contact with them, should be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and contact their healthcare provider for a risk assessment.

What healthcare providers should do:

  • If healthcare providers identify patients with a rash that looks like monkeypox, consider monkeypox, regardless of whether the patient has a travel history to central or west African countries.
  • Do not limit concerns to men who report having sex with other men. Those who have any sort of close personal contact with people with monkeypox could potentially also be at risk for the disease.
  • Some patients have had genital lesions and the rash may be hard to distinguish from syphilis, herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection, chancroid, varicella zoster, and other more common infections.
  • Isolate any patients suspected of having monkeypox in a negative pressure room, and ensure staff understand the importance of wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and that they wear it each time they are near suspected cases.
  • Consult the state health department or CDC’s monkeypox call center through the CDC Emergency Operations Center  at 770-488-7100 as soon as monkeypox is suspected.

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness that typically begins with flu-like illness and swelling of the lymph nodes and progresses to a widespread rash on the face and body. Monkey pox reemerged in Nigeria in 2017 after more than 40 years with no reported cases. Since then, there have been more than 450 reported cases in Nigeria and at least eight known exported cases internationally.

David Aaron Moore

David Aaron Moore is a former editor of Qnotes, serving in the role from 2003 to 2007. He is currently the senior content editor and a regularly contributing writer for Qnotes. Moore is a native of North...