The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a travel alert over the alarming spread of monkeypox — while confirming more than 200 people are being tracked in Massachusetts, having been in contact with the first confirmed patient in the US.
The CDC released the level-2 alert late Monday, advising people to “practice enhanced precautions” — and warning that it “is fatal in as many as 1 to 11% of people who become infected.”
“Some cases were reported among men who have sex with men,” the health authority said on the same day another expert said some cases appeared to have stemmed from sexual activity at raves in Europe.
In its advisory, the CDC emphasized in bold the need to avoid “close contact with sick people, including those with skin lesions or genital lesions” — as well as “contact with dead or live wild animals.”
The advisory listed 16 countries where the disease has been confirmed as of Monday outside of the parts of Africa where it has traditionally been contained.
At least one other country joined the list Tuesday, with officials in Slovenia confirming a case in a traveler who had returned from the Canary Islands in Spain.
The World Health Organization revealed Tuesday that there have been 131 confirmed monkeypox cases and a further 106 suspected ones.
On Monday, CDC officials told a press briefing that an unidentified Massachusetts man who had recently returned from Canada remained the only confirmed monkeypox case in the US.
All the suspected cases in the US have been men who had a relevant travel history, the briefing heard.
While the US patient was in isolation in Massachusetts General Hospital, health officials there “have been tracking over 200 contacts,” Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s division of high consequence pathogens and pathology, told the briefing.
While that included the patient’s personal contacts, “the vast majority of them are health care workers,” McQuiston said, according to the Boston Herald.
“Right now we are hoping to maximize vaccine distribution to those that we know would benefit from it,” McQuiston said.
“Those are people who’ve had contacts with a known monkeypox patient, health care workers, very close personal contacts, and those in particular who might be at high risk for severe disease.”
The US has around one thousand doses of JYNNEOS, an approved vaccine for smallpox and monkeypox “and you can expect that level to ramp up very quickly in the coming weeks,” McQuiston said.
On Tuesday, the WHO’s director for Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness, Sylvie Briand, admitted that it was impossible to know if the 131 confirmed cases were just the “tip of the iceberg.”
However, while the outbreak was “not normal,” it remained “containable,” she told the World Health Assembly in Geneva.
“Let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill,” she said.