WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday it’s likely the United States will see additional cases of monkeypox in the coming weeks, but officials cautioned that it’s harder to transmit the virus than it is to spread respiratory illnesses like COVID-19.
Monkeypox, which is also spreading throughout Europe, has an incubation period of one to two weeks and often comes with flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, a rash and lesions.
Most people recover from the virus within two to four weeks without specific treatments, though it can be more severe in those who are immunocompromised or have other illnesses.
Lab tests have confirmed one case in a Massachusetts man and the CDC is waiting on lab results to confirm what officials expect is one case in Florida, one in New York City and two in Utah, CDC officials told reporters in a press call.
All the cases the CDC is investigating as of Monday afternoon are travel associated and have occurred in men, according to Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology.
Despite the higher-than-normal spread of monkeypox in the United States and Europe, she said, public health officials have no reason to believe the virus has become more easily transmissible.
“Right now we’re not seeing any evidence that this virus has changed to become more efficiently transmitted person to person,” McQuiston said.
She also noted that researchers have had decades to study monkeypox to learn how it spreads and how to treat it, a much different situation than officials faced at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when health care providers were dealing with a completely new virus.
“I know that early in COVID we had not a lot of information and things changed as we learned more. We do know a lot about monkeypox from many decades of studying it,” McQuiston said.
Doses of two vaccines approved for treatment of smallpox that can also be used for monkeypox are stored in the strategic national stockpile.
The CDC says monkeypox “was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name ‘monkeypox.’ “
John Brooks, a medical epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said on the call with reporters that monkeypox spreads through close, personal contact. It’s not traditionally thought of as a sexually transmitted disease, but it can be spread through sexual contact. Read more