In this week’s briefing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the agency confirmed that a monkeypox case has been reported in Maryland, where the person who contracted the virus was previously living. The Virginia Department of Health confirmed the case last week, but the CDC only recently got word of the infection.
According to the CDC, this is the first case of monkeypox in the United States since 2002, and is the ninth case reported in the world since 2003. In most cases, these patients contracted the disease from direct contact with infected animals, like their cats or dogs, or were exposed to animal saliva on somebody else’s hands or feet.
Although the strain of monkeypox found in this country is uncommon, since 2011, there have been three monkeypox outbreaks in Africa; after the outbreaks, CDC officials ran a series of tests to determine whether the virus had returned to the U.S. In 2013, they found that the monkeypox virus — at that time, H041N — was widely present in animals that were not monkeys, such as fruit bats, rats, flies, and ground termites. These results led to new lab tests that allow experts to identify virus components and strains based on basic traits.
About 42 percent of those who are infected with monkeypox develop fever, but typically, they also experience several weeks of fever and severe swelling of the lymph nodes (the lump that will later develop into a rash). While most people infected with monkeypox recover completely from the infection, some may experience more severe symptoms like headaches and joint pain.
In this Maryland case, the patient visited the University of Maryland Medical Center in the Spring of 2018 and was placed in isolation as soon as the patient’s co-workers learned of the disease. This week, the case was confirmed in a lab at the CDC’s Atlanta office. The person in isolation is not currently showing any symptoms.
U.S. officials are working with the National Institutes of Health and other partners to investigate the cause of the monkeypox infection. Because the monkeypox virus can be relatively easily transmitted to people, health officials say they will ramp up their efforts to urge Marylandans to get their pets vaccinated for rabbit fever, which is not a fatal disease.