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The number of monkeypox cases identified in the U.S. have doubled in the past week to 20, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the risk to the public remains low and the strain causing these cases is believed to be a less severe version of the disease.
During a press briefing Thursday, officials from the CDC and the White House confirmed that 20 cases had been identified across 11 states.
“The strain of the monkeypox virus affecting patients in this outbreak is the West African clade, and that is less severe than other known clades [such as] the Congo Basin clade, meaning that in historical outbreaks in Africa it has led to fewer deaths,” said Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director for the CDC’s Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology.
While the strain is believed to be a less severe one, McQuiston stressed that it should not be minimized since the virus can still result in pain due to its characteristic rash as well as severe scarring once the lesions have healed.
Most monkeypox cases in the U.S. have been found among men who have sex with men, but the CDC confirmed that one case had been found in a woman who had traveled to West Africa and reported having a heterosexual sex life.
The CDC provided a rough timeline of the monkeypox outbreak in the U.S., sharing that the first two cases were detected in men — one in Massachusetts and one in New York — who had traveled internationally.
The U.S. is currently following a strategy of containment to limit the spread of monkeypox by isolating cases, identifying people who have possibly been exposed and making sure that vaccines are offered to them. No monkeypox-related deaths have yet been reported.
So far, the federal government has delivered about 1,200 doses of smallpox vaccines believed to be effective against monkeypox as well as 100 courses of treatments to eight jurisdictions. The two smallpox vaccines that are being mobilized are Jynneos and the older ACAM2000.
CDC officials stressed that the agency currently has “more than enough vaccines” to handle the current infections, though they declined to specify how many vaccines doses are currently available in the U.S.
This week, jurisdictions including Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles County and Georgia all reported their first cases of monkeypox for this year.