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Monkeypox has now been detected in the United States, with officials in Massachusetts reporting a case in a man who recently travelled to Canada.
A small number of confirmed or suspected cases were reported earlier this month in the UK, Portugal and Spain – the first of which is believed to have been contracted when the patient was in Nigeria before travelling to the UK.
Now, health officials have confirmed the first US case this year, following cases in Texas and Maryland last year, also from people who had been to Nigeria.
Jennifer McQuiston, of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that in the latest instance, the man had travelled to Canada at the end of April to meet friends, returning in early May.
Officials said they are in contact with counterparts in the UK and Canada as part of the investigation, but McQuiston added: “At this point in time, we don’t have any information that links the Massachusetts case to cases in the UK.”
While it is the only case in the US that the CDC is aware of, McQuiston said: “I do think we are preparing for the possibility of more cases.”
Officials said the Massachusetts resident is hospitalised but in good condition, and that this US case poses no risk to the public.
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. According to the CDC, it was first discovered in 1958, when two outbreaks of a ‘pox-like disease’ occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research – hence the name.
The first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, during a period of ‘intensified effort to eliminate smallpox’.
Since then, it has been reported in several other central and western African countries, and in cases outside of the continent linked to international travel or imported animals.
The CDC says on its website: “U.S. monkeypox cases are very rare. Monkeypox does not occur naturally in the United States, but cases have happened that were associated with international travel or importing animals from areas where the disease is more common.”
In humans, the symptoms are similar to those of smallpox, but milder – beginnings with fever, headache, muscle aches, and exhaustion.
“The main difference between symptoms of smallpox and monkeypox is that monkeypox causes lymph nodes to swell (lymphadenopathy) while smallpox does not,” the CDC explains.
“The incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) for monkeypox is usually 7−14 days but can range from 5−21 days.”
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