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Cases of the monkeypox have now been confirmed in seven countries outside of Africa – with the United States, Italy and Sweden all being the latest to join the dubious group – while one expert warns that case figures will likely increase in the near-future.
Dr Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, also told DailyMail.com that the virus is spreading via physical touch – and that it only spreads through respiratory droplets in the air in people that are already exhibiting symptoms.
This changes the formula for how the virus spreads compared to what Americans are typically used to after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, while also giving an explanation why many of the cases detected in Europe are among gay and bisexual men.
On Wednesday, health officials in Massachusetts announced the first U.S. case of the virus during this outbreak in an unnamed man that had recently traveled into Canada. He has been hospitalized, but is in good condition, officials report.
America joins five European countries: Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the UK in confirming cases. At least 13 suspected cases are also being investigated in Quebec, Canada.
American officials are also probing six people who were on a place ride with a Briton that later tested positive for the virus. No deaths have been tied to the virus during this outbreak.
Monkeypox is spread via physical touch, experts say, which would explain why it seems to have spread in the sexual network of gay and bisexual men in parts of Europe
‘It spreads through close bodily contact,’ Adalja explained.
‘It is just in the past it has been more of an animal to human thing… but with close contact it has always been known to spread.’
He also doubts that the six Americans believed to have been potentially exposed to the virus on the plane would have contracted it either, due to the small likelihood they had physical touch with others on the plane.
‘If they were just on the same plane, I don’t necessarily think you would see transmission,’ Adalja said.
Dr Amesh Adalja (pictured), an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins, warned that there will likely be more cases of the virus in the U.S., but it is too early to say if it will eclipse the record mark of 43 cases set in 2003
‘If they were next to the patient though, then this is more likely.’
The virus is common in central and western Africa. Cross-species transmission from Animals to humans is possible through physical contact. An infected person will often suffer rashes and infectious lesions on their skin, along with other flu-like symptoms.
It is mostly found in Nigeria, though there was a 40-year period without a single reported case before it re-emerged in the African nation in 2017.
In typical outbreaks, around one-in-ten cases are fatal, though some experts believe the mortality risk of the strain currently making its way across the world is as low as only one percent.
There was initial speculation that there could be a sexual transmission factor at play during this outbreak, as many people who initially tested positive for the rare virus were gay or bisexual men. Adalja says that it is too early to determine why, but there are a few reasonable explanations.
‘It may have just been they were all at a party together and a party where all friends happened to be of a certain sexual orientation,’ he explained.
‘We don’t know whether it was sexual contact, it just needs a touch of the skin of someone.’
He warns that it it likely that more cases of the rare virus in the U.S., though it is unclear whether case figures will eclipse the record 43 cases that were detected in America during a 2003 outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning that men who have sex with other men seem to be most at risk at the moment, as it is traveling through their sexual network, all healthcare providers should be on alert.
People who are infected with monkeypox often suffer from severe rashes, skin lesions and flu like symptoms. The virus kills around one-in-ten people it infects, though there is belief that the current strain making its way around the world has a mortality rate of one percent
‘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,’ said Dr Inger Damon, director of CDC’s Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, said in a statement released Wednesday night.
‘We’re asking the public to contact their healthcare provider if they have a new rash and are concerned about monkeypox.’
The CDC also notes that many of the lesions that appear as a result of monkeypox infection may have similarities to symptoms of STIs like syphilis, herpes, HSV, and others. The agency also warns says that even people who are not gay or bisexual men should be on the look out.
The prevalence of cases in the UK, for which nine cases have been confirmed so far, also puts America in particular at an increased risk of of outbreak.
Dr Jennifer McQuiston, a senior official at the CDC, told Stat News that: ‘there’s a lot of travel between the U.K. and the United States and other global area,’ she said.
‘So I think our concern is that given that you do have four cases among men who have sex with men, that we probably need to be thinking about messaging to our STI clinics … about what to be on the lookout for, what to be alert for.’
Last year, the U.S. detected a case of the monkeypox in an unnamed Texas man that had recently traveled to Nigeria. A larger probe of 200 people across 27 states also led to the detection of another case in an unnamed person in Maryland.
There are no therapeutics available that are specifically targeted at the condition – because of how low its prevalence is – though many drugs that are effective against smallpox can also treat the monkeypox.
There is a vaccine available to prevent infection from the virus.